Belong@FHS: Appreciation for Diversity and Teamwork Skills from Peer-Mentoring

Melanie NGUYEN
The University of Sydney, Australia
melanie.nguyen@sydney.edu.au

Sarah LEWIS
The University of Sydney, Australia
sarah.lewis@sydney.edu.au

Corinne CAILLAUD
The University of Sydney, Australia
corinne.caillaud@sydney.edu.au

Abstract

As future health professionals, Health Sciences graduates will work in multidisciplinary teams providing care to an increasingly international and multicultural community (Brooks, et al., 2008). Students need to have teamwork skills and be culturally competent to implement inclusive healthcare strategies.

Our multidisciplinary health sciences Faculty enables students to learn alongside future health professionals. Evidence has shown that these collaborative, peer-based opportunities for building diversity capital are most effective when embedded into first year experiences (Horsburgh, et al., 2001). Initiatives to widen participation in higher education across Australia have led to more socially and culturally diverse students (Dawson, et al., 2013). This provides unique opportunities for student interactions that may lead to appreciation for, and awareness of, diversity.

Belong@FHS is a faculty-wide peer-mentoring program where 87 senior students supported 257 first year students in nine undergraduate degrees. Mentoring (2 mentors to 6-8 mentees) occurred throughout semester 1, 2013, consisting of formal and informal sessions, social events and academic workshops across two campuses. Cross-campus interaction was encouraged through an online community.

The program's ability to facilitate teamwork skills and an appreciation for diversity was evaluated using online surveys (mentors, N=29; mentees, N=33). Due to the small sample size, only descriptive data are reported. Most mentees agreed that mentoring facilitated interactions with peers from diverse backgrounds. Both mentors and mentees reported high scores on standardised scales of teamwork skills and appreciation for diversity. Findings suggest that mentoring provides collaborative experiences for learning about diversity thereby preparing graduates for modern healthcare and globalized world.

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