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Culture in Medicine and Healthcare

The Workshops – Background, Content and Expected Learning Outcomes

Background Information - Drivers of the Workshop

Our professional partnership began with a shared interest in these research questions

  • Does the culture of origin of an individual doctor play any part in shaping professional attitudes and behaviour?
  • If so, might it also influence the way in which they subsequently develop their professional identity?

The backdrop to this research was our awareness that many of our colleagues from overseas performed less well when they came into UK NHS training and professional development programmes. Data regarding their performance from Postgraduate Examinations, the GMC, and relevant professional bodies continues to confirm this - but we wanted to know more about why that might be. Both of us have worked, trained, and taught abroad, in a variety of different cultures, meeting intelligent and dedicated doctors who are extremely successful in their own country; an experience which made evident that under-performance cannot easily and simply be explained by lack of knowledge. We wanted to explore more, to see if we could identify factors contributing to the challenges faced when moving across cultures.

The themes emerging from our work form some of the key elements that underpin our workshops – themes that are developed and extended by the questions and discussion arising from the workshop participants themselves, as they use the opportunity to share and reflect on their own experiences and unpick the interwoven layers of personal and professional culture.

Aims of the Workshop and Learning Outcomes

Aims of the Workshop:

  • To offer a conceptual framework for understanding more about the dimensions of culture – on personal, professional and organisational levels
  • To see how the theoretical frameworks explored can be practically applied to educational practice in the workplace
  • To introduce a different perspective to working with a diverse workforce


At the conclusion of the workshop, participants will:

  • Have a better understanding of what is meant by ‘culture’ and how it applies to the medical profession
  • Have increased confidence in dealing with events and incidents that have a cultural component

What the Workshop is NOT about:

  • It is not about equality and diversity – we are exploring the sensitive topic of culture within an applied academic framework rather than policies and procedures
  • It is not about excusing under-performance on the grounds of culture – we will make it clear that all individuals coming to work within the NHS must work to required standards and meet agreed performance levels

Overview of Content

In order to lay down a baseline of understanding, we introduce conceptual frameworks that provide a theory about how our culture of origin influences attitudes and behaviours from early life; and how these are later translated into adult working life. We look at how the intrinsic values of our cultural beliefs are harder to move away from when faced with the challenge of adapting to new and different settings; and how organisational culture poses another cultural dimension to be tackled, before moving on to consider how this thinking relates to the differing professional experiences of participants.

We recognise that talking about ‘culture’ – our own and other people’s – is sensitive and complex topic. Many of our participants are wary of being seen as ‘racist’ or ‘prejudiced’ when contributing to discussions. We work hard to create a safe learning environment, making clear our intention of seeking to explore in order to better learn and understand. We encourage participants from all cultural backgrounds to share experiences that can be linked to our conceptual framework, searching out together, through case studies, videos and discussions, strategies that either resolve potential problems thrown up by differing cultural perceptions, or suggest ways in which better adaptation and understanding of difference might forestall future problems, drawing on concepts around loss, and the management of change.

Outcome – does it work?

Workshops have been well received by participants who welcome the opportunity to discuss a sensitive and ‘forbidden’ topic openly, within a conceptual framework of understanding and shared experience. We would say that wouldn’t we? So to hear for yourselves what they have to say about our workshop, please use the video link provided, in which they ‘tell it how it is’.

We hope very much to welcome you to one of our forthcoming workshops.