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3 October 2023

Straight answers to hard questions for rural docs

Straight answers to hard questions for rural docs

James Cook University (JCU) General Practice and Rural Medicine has launched a series of informative, straight-talking videos to assist general practitioners (GPs) in training to provide culturally appropriate care to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients.

The ‘Hard Questions’ series includes around 40 short videos filled with practical advice, dos and don’ts, and local experiences from JCU Cultural Mentors based at Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHOs) across northern Queensland.

Leading the video project is Henry Neill, Cultural Educator for JCU General Practice and Rural Medicine. He says the idea for the video series came from seeing a common theme to registrars’ questions over his six years of providing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural awareness training.

‘The questions, as you can imagine, come from all corners,’ Henry says. ‘I hear time and again from registrars, “I don’t want to offend my patients”; they’re looking to better engage with Indigenous [people] and they want to understand the cultural significance of the community they’re working in. That’s where these videos will help.’

Cultural Mentors work in various roles across JCU’s 76 training posts – from doctors, to practice managers, wellbeing coordinators and CEOs. In the ‘Hard Questions’ series, they share information on topics like introducing yourself to an Indigenous patient, preferred language, the role of Elders, Sorry Business and much more.

GP Dr Jacinta Power has worked in mainstream clinics and ACCHOs since she graduated from JCU in 2013. She works in JCU’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health team as a Cultural Mentor and lent her experience and expertise to the video series.

‘For me, it was great to provide my perspectives as a north-Queensland Aboriginal woman and as a doctor. There is a wide range of views and knowledge in JCU’s cultural mentoring program and that certainly comes through in the videos,’ Dr Power says.

‘We know that providing culturally safe services greatly benefits the consumer – in this case, Indigenous people and communities. I think some of my GP colleagues or registrars may not feel comfortable to ask some of those questions, or they may be wanting to understand their subconscious biases.

‘The resources and support we can provide to GP registrars, not just in ACCHOs but also in mainstream clinics, helps create a safe space for them to grow in their ability to provide culturally safe care for Indigenous patients,’ Dr Power says.

Floyd Leedie is the CEO of Goondir Health Services in Dalby and has been part of cultural awareness training since JCU began training GPs in 2016. From his 23 years' experience at Goondir, he knows the importance of culturally sensitive GPs.

‘Without cultural awareness training, GPs may have a lack of understanding about our mob and therefore may not pick up on cultural barriers. This may hinder the delivery of good-quality care, and good-quality care is what’s needed to close the gap.

‘I wanted to be a part of getting the message out there about cultural awareness to as many potential GPs looking to join our sector [as possible]. These videos can be used anywhere, with any audience, as many times as needed and for as long as needed. So the benefit of the videos is now manyfold,’ Floyd says.

With First Nations people over-represented for many chronic conditions in Australia, JCU hopes these videos can be a reference point for aspiring GPs, enhancing their cultural knowledge and sensitivity and, in turn, fostering positive relationships with Indigenous patients and communities.

You can access the Hard Questions video series on the JCU YouTube channel.

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NQRTH is an initiative of the Australian Government's Integrated Rural Training Pipeline (IRTP) and is facilitated by James Cook University in partnership with public and private hospitals, Queensland Aboriginal and Islander Health Council (QAIHC), health services, Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations (ACCHOs) and GP clinics.

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