Occupational therapy practitioners' perspectives regarding international cross-cultural work

Tamera Keiter Humbert, Elizabethtown College
Allison Burket, Elizabethtown College
Rebecca Deveney, Elizabethtown College
Katelyn Kennedy, Elizabethtown College


Aim: The purpose of this study was to investigate the perspectives of occupational therapy practitioners who have engaged in cross-cultural work experiences. The research question was how do occupational therapy practitioners make meaning of their lived cross-cultural experiences. Methods: This study utilised a qualitative, phenomenological design. Eleven open-ended, semi-structured interviews were conducted with occupational therapy practitioners educated in the United States and who engaged in international practice. The interviews were then coded and analysed using a constant comparative analysis approach. Results: Three central themes emerged from the completed interviews and data analysis, including connectedness, cultural awareness and complexity. Connectedness is the process of forming relationships with others while engaging in cross-cultural experiences. Cultural awareness is the recognition and understanding of a different culture, comparing these insights with one's own culture and then responding to those differences. Complexity is the idea that cross-cultural experiences are dynamic, multi-faceted and intricate. Conclusions: This study helps provide an understanding of cross-cultural work experiences from the practitioners' perspective. The demands of such work require practitioners to go beyond developing basic skills related to cultural sensitivity and cultural awareness. Instead, practitioners need to embrace and integrate the ability to incorporate layers of cultural awareness, complexity and connectedness into practice. Further research is needed to understand how this is actually developed and utilised within practice. © 2011 The Authors. Australian Occupational Therapy Journal © 2011 Occupational Therapy Australia.