International collaboration on racism in healthcare

A collaborative project on the topic of racism in healthcare is currently being carried out between the School of Health and Welfare at Jönköping University (JU), Uppsala University and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC). Through online seminars, specialist nursing students are reflecting on both their own and others’ experiences of racism within healthcare and discussing how the issue can be addressed. The collaboration also forms part of a separate research project.

Person framför tangentbord med stetoskop.

Genreimage. Photo: Daniel Sone/Unsplash

The project “Undoing racism in healthcare”, is currently being carried out within a specialist nursing course. Future district and pediatric nurses at the School of Health and Welfare are, together with students from the UNC who are studying to be Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioners, comparing, discussing, and reflecting on how racism manifests within the healthcare, and how it differs between their countries.

“We have been planning this collaborative project since January. As this can be a very personal and sensitive topic, we decided on a series of seminars where the students reflect and take part in discussions based on case studies, articles, and a video recorded lecture. It has worked really well, and we are so happy to have the opportunity to give our students this knowledge through an educational method such at this,” says Maria Björk who is the course examiner at the School of Health and Welfare.

An excerpt of the COIL-project description at UNC:

“COIL is an instructional method that involves faculty members and students from two or more countries teaching and learning together using technology as part of regularly scheduled courses at each institution. During this course we will engage in live classes and small group activities with faculty and students from Jönköping University and Uppsala University in Sweden for 3 class sessions. These activities will enhance your learning of the course content. COIL activities will provide you with exposure to new cultural contexts, knowledge, and perspectives on the course material. By participating in the COIL activities, you will develop and enhance cross-cultural communication skills and gain experience working in multicultural teams.”

The project group has worked digitally, both during the planning and the implementation period with some funding through the Office of Global Affairs at UNC. During the corona pandemic, when study abroad options were eliminated, the Office sought to sponsor projects that could be conducted online. These COIL (Collaborative, Online, International, Learning) projects give students an opportunity to explore other cultures without leaving home.

“University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill is very interested in expanding our curriculum through international projects. Because I have collaborated with the School of Health and Welfare in the past, this COIL opportunity provided a way to expand that collaboration and reach more students. It has been delightful to work with the team from JU and with Sarah Hamed and Hannah Bradby from Uppsala University who bring so much richness to the project with their deep knowledge of racism in healthcare,” says Theresa Raphael-Grimm, Professor at the School of Nursing and Medicine at UNC.

Picture of a digital meeting with frames of persons

The team behind the Undoing racism-project. Top row from left: Maria Björk, Hannah Bradby, Karina Huus. Middle row: Johanna Falck, Julia Lindblom, Sara Hamed. Lower row: Elzana Odzakovic and Theresa Raphael-Grimm.

Students reflections will be part of research

During the project, students participate in three seminars where they explore racism in healthcare. Their written reflections of the COIL experience will be analyzed, using a qualitative method, as part of a separate research project.

“We knew that the School of Health and Welfare work with reflection as a didactic method and we thought it would be interesting to use cases that have been generated through qualitative research interviews with both patients and professionals that focus on racism within health care. We thought that we’d have to be persuasive to get the team from JU to accept, since this can be a sensitive topic, but they have been very interested and enthusiastic from the beginning,” says Sara Hamed, PhD student at Uppsala University.

Both the Swedish and the American students have had a positive attitude towards the assignments.

“My students normally have very few opportunities to interact intimately like this with people from other parts of the world, and they think that this has been a wonderful opportunity. It is also fun to see how interested the Swedish students are in understanding racism and how it manifests differently between the two countries,” says Theresa Raphael-Grimm.

Johanna Falck, course coordinator at the School of Health and Welfare, agrees with Theresa:

“We are so proud of how the students have taken on the assignments and the collaboration. The same can be said for us educators, I find that everyone has been flexible and responsive in their approach and focused on solutions, rather than problems, from the very beginning. To work in this project has really been a win-win-win-situation, for students, educators, and researchers. Now we also know that it works really well, to plan and teach through only digital methods, also across continents, despite certain obstacles such as different time-zones,” she says.

The students have had three different seminars, in full groups, but also with discussions in breakout rooms. In between the seminars, they have also read articles and book chapters (some readings coming from Theresa Raphael-Grimm’s book), watched a video recorded lecture, written reflection assignments and been divided into smaller reflection groups. The compilation of these assignments has been examined, and one of the students' written assignments will be analyzed as part of the research project mentioned earlier.

Those involved in the project are:

Department of Nursing, School of Health and Welfare, Jönköping University: Johanna Falck, Maria Björk, Karina Huus, Elzana Odzakovic and Julia Lindblom.

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: Theresa Raphael-Grimm.

Uppsala universitet: Beth Ahlberg, Hannah Bradby and Sarah Hamed.

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