Occupational therapy students’ experiences and perceptions of culture during fieldwork education
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Background: Understanding a client’s culture allows practitioners to consider the planning of intervention and allows for a client centred approach to be provided. During fieldwork education occupational therapy students can face the challenge of other cultural practices, standards, morals and ways of life coming into conflict with their own. Purpose: There is minimal South African literature discussing the challenges and supporting factors that assist students in becoming culturally competent across cross-cultural settings. This article explored occupational therapy students’ experiences of culture, and their perceptions of the barriers and enablers that culture presents during fieldwork education. Methods: A qualitative study was conducted with undergraduate occupational therapy students from a university in Cape Town, South Africa. Data were collected using focus groups with each group of students from first to fourth year and were analysed using thematic analysis. Findings: The two main themes that emerged from the analysis, were: 1) “Culture is easily defined but not easily described”, which focuses on the students own understandings and interpretations of culture, and 2) “Is there no ‘me’ in OT?” which specifically describes students’ experiences of culture during fieldwork practice. Implications: The findings of this study questioned whether cultural competence is static but determined that exposure to, positive attitudes towards and self-reflection on culturally diverse experiences are the factors that contribute towards developing cultural competence in culturally diverse situations.