Contextualising education for natural and social sustainability for Australian healthcare degrees

Jillian Dunphy

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    Background: Despite the known impacts of the natural and social environments on health, Australian undergraduate healthcare degrees are not explicitly designed to prepare graduates to respond to natural and social sustainability issues within their professional lives. Inclusion of education for sustainability (EFS) curriculum would address this situation; however, research regarding what EFS content healthcare professionals and educators view as necessary is lacking. Aim: To identify curriculum content that healthcare professionals and educators think is necessary to address environmental sustainability issues in the Australian healthcare context. Method: Descriptive qualitative analysis of interviews with 64 healthcare professionals and educators. Findings: There were three main streams of EFS content that Australian healthcare professionals and educators considered desirable: knowledge, skills and professional modelling. The required knowledge described includes an understanding of environmental impacts on health and healthcare, and healthcare impacts on the environment. Proposed key skill sets are analytical and critical thinking, workplace leadership, community engagement and advocacy skills. Appropriate modelling of professionalism to support the social and natural environments was considered vital, including consideration of social justice, resource use and ethical management. Discussion: Through the lens of their own professional experiences, interviewees argued that this combination of EFS content would contribute to the development of healthcare graduates with a broad concept of their professional responsibilities and the skills, resilience and knowledge to be able to respond to sustainability issues within their professional contexts. This fundamental data will help contextualise EFS specifically for the Australian healthcare sector.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)4-18
    Number of pages15
    JournalFocus on Health Professional Education: A multi-disciplinary journal
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - Sept 2013


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