Moving Diversity from the Periphery: Diverse Staff Interactions in Children’s Hospitals

By Cathy O'Callaghan.

Published by The International Journal of Organizational Diversity

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Article: Electronic $US5.00

Practices in health organisations in Australia predominantly reflect the Anglo-Australian mainstream culture, while the hospital workforce is typically culturally diverse. Management tends to view cultural diversity as peripheral to mainstream practice, and outside the core business of the health organisation. Staff from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds are sometimes called upon ad hoc to ‘deal with’ families from CALD backgrounds, on the basis of their shared ethnicity. It would be preferable for management to develop policies and practices that ensure all staff have the cultural competency to work with all patients. In a research study at two children’s hospitals in metropolitan Sydney (O'Callaghan 2013), interviews reveal that staff practices demonstrate a broader conception of diversity than might be expected, even though only some staff and patients share the same ethnicity. In many cases, staff draw successfully on their knowledge, skills and migration experience to assist families, even where the ethnicity of staff does not match the ethnicity of patients. The concepts of productive diversity and relational positioning help explain how staff members engage with diversity in the organisation. Productive diversity refers to the positive recognition of the diversity of staff in terms of “language skills, communication styles, international networks, country knowledge and life experience” (Cope and Kalantzis 1997, x). Relational positioning is based on the idea that identity is “situationally constructed and defined and at the crossroads of different systems of alterity” (Friedman 1998, 47). It is suggested that staff could relate to families using different parts of their identity and based on various axes of differentiation and oppression beyond ethnicity. The outcome would be a higher quality of care for all patients and greater staff satisfaction when treating patients.

Keywords: Managing Diversity, Cultural Identity, Productive Diversity, Health Organisations, Relational Positioning

The International Journal of Organizational Diversity, Volume 12, Issue 4, pp.1-13. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 510.284KB).

Dr. Cathy O'Callaghan

PhD Candidate (UWS), Diversity Health Coordinator (SH), Institute of Culture and Society (UWS), Social Work (SH), University of Western Sydney, Sutherland Hospital - NSW Health, Sydney, NSW, Australia

Dr. Cathy O’Callaghan is a PhD graduate from the Institute for Culture and Society at the University of Western Sydney and now works as the Learning and Development Program Manager at Multicultural Health Service, South Eastern Sydney Local Health District. She has extensive experience conducting research and managing programs in the areas of multicultural and refugee health. She also has a Masters in Applied Anthropology and Development Studies and Masters of Public Health (Honours).