Background: Communities of practice have been proposed as a workforce development strategy for developing dietitians, yet little is known about how they work and for whom, as well as under what circumstances. We aimed to understand the mechanisms by which dietitians working in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health benefit from communities of practice.
Methods: A realist evaluation of 29 interviews with non-Indigenous dietitians and nutritionists was employed, which was conducted over the course of two communities of practice (2013 and 2014) and follow-up interviews in 2019. Programme theory was developed from analysis of initial interviews and used to recode all interviews and test theory. The identification of patterns refined the programme theory.
Results: Six refined theories were identified: (1) a community of practice fosters the relationships that support navigation of the many tasks required to become more responsive health professionals; (2) committed and open participants feel supported and guided to be reflexive; (3) sharing, reflexivity, feedback and support shift awareness to one's own practice to be able to manoeuvre in intercultural spaces; (4) through sharing, feedback, support and collaboration, participants feel assured and affirmed; (5) connection through feelings of understanding and being understood contributes to commitment to remain working in the area; and (6) through sharing, feedback, support and collaboration, participants with varied experience and roles see the value of and gain confidence in new perspectives, skills and practices.
Conclusions: Further research is required to test this model on a much larger scale, with communities of practice inclusive of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal health professionals together, and across a diverse group of dietitians.
- cultural competence
- group learning
- professional development
- workforce development