Improving clinician communication with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients with chronic pain

While the burden of disease for chronic pain1 is high for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, referrals to pain management services are low. Communication is an important determinant in the provision of accessible, quality healthcare.

This project aims to improve communication between health professionals and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients, by equipping practitioners with culturally cognisant and sensitive communication skills. Training will be delivered across three Hospital and Health Services for Queensland, specifically Metro North Health, Metro South Health and Townsville Health and Hospital Service.

This research operationalises the wisdom and expertise of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Queenslanders by adapting Clinical Yarning Communication2 training to meet the needs and preferences of Queensland pain services and its patients. The training will be evaluated for impact (clinical outcomes) and patient satisfaction with services and communication. Queensland Health cultural capability training features prominently throughout the one-day event, supporting a training experience that is sensitive to the pain service setting and Queensland cultural protocol of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

By June 2021, training will have been delivered to all sites and approximately 60 clinicians of persistent pain management services.

The vision for the training is that it would become a valued component of all Queensland healthcare workers’ education and professional development.

Project investigators

Project investigators engage with and draw up on the expertise of partners within universities, research institutes, and hospital and health services across Queensland and Australia.

  • Mr Gregory Pratt, Manager of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Research, QIMR Berghofer (Principal Investigator)

  • Dr Christina Bernardes, Project Manager, QIMR Berghofer

  • Dr Matthew Bryant, Anaesthetist and Pain Medicine Specialist, Townsville Health and Hospital Service

  • Dr Ivan Lin, Western Australian Centre for Rural Health, University of Western Australia

  • Mr Daniel Williamson, Manager Performance, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Branch, Queensland Health

  • Associate Professor Renata Meuter, Head, School of Psychology and Counselling, Faculty of Health, Queensland University of Technology

  • Dr Stuart Ekberg, Senior Lecturer, Academic Lead, Research, School of Psychology and Counselling, Queensland University of Technology

  • Professor Stephen Birch, Director, Centre for the Business and Economics of Health, The University of Queensland

  • Associate Professor Paul Gray, Pain Medicine Specialist and Clinical Director, Metro North Persistent Pain Service

  • Dr Joseph Phillip Kluver, Pain Medicine Specialist and Clinical Director, Metro South Persistent Pain Service

Dr Andrew Claus, Research Development Officer, Tess Cramond Pain and Research Centre, Metro North Persistent Pain Service

1. O’Brien P et al. Tackling the burden of osteoarthritis as a health care opportunity in Indigenous communities – a call to action. J Clin Med. 2020, 9, 2393. doi: 10.3390/jcm9082393

2. Lin I, Green C Bessarab D. ‘Yarn with me’: applying clinical yarning to improve clinician-patient communication in Aboriginal health care. Aust J Prim Heath. 2016, 22, 377-882.

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