Working together in Aboriginal health: a framework to guide health professional practice [2020]

Working effectively with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is important for maximising the effectiveness of a health care interaction between and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients and a health professional. This paper presents a framework to guide health professional practice in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health.

This qualitative study was based in a social constructionist epistemology and was guided by a critical social research methodology. Two methods were employed: interviews with Aboriginal health workers and allied health professionals about their experiences of working together in Aboriginal health, and an auto-ethnography conducted by the researcher, a non-Aboriginal dietitian and researcher who worked closely with two Aboriginal communities while undertaking this research.

Interviews were conducted with 44 allied health professionals and Aboriginal health workers in 2010. Critical Social research, which involves the deconstruction and reconstruction of data, was used to analyse data and guided the evolution of themes. Strategies that were identified as important to guide practice when working respectfully in Aboriginal health included: Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people working with Aboriginal health workers, using appropriate processes, demonstrating commitment to building relationships, relinquishing control, having an awareness of Aboriginal history, communication, commitment, flexibility, humility, honesty, and persistence. Reciprocity and reflection/reflexivity were found to be cornerstone strategies from which many other strategies naturally followed. Strategies were grouped into three categories: approach, skills and personal attributes which led to development of the Framework.

The approach, skills and personal attributes of health professionals are important when working in Aboriginal health. The strategies identified in each category provide a Framework for all health professionals to use when working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Annabelle M. Wilson, Janet Kelly, Michelle Jones, Kim O’Donnell, Sandra Wilson, Emma Tonkin & Anthea Magarey
BMC Health Services Research volume 20, Article number: 601 (2020)