Post operative pain experiences of central Australian Aboriginal women. What do we understand?

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Fenwick, Clare
Stevens, John
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James Dunbar

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Objective: The aim of this study was to explore the postoperative pain experiences of Central Australian Aboriginal women and the subsequent interpretation of that pain experience by non-Aboriginal female nurses. Design: Qualitative study using grounded theory methodology. Setting: Postoperative surgical setting of a Central Australian regional hospital. Subjects: Five Aboriginal female clients who had undergone a surgical procedure, eight non-Aboriginal female nurses and four Aboriginal female health workers employed by a Central Australian regional hospital. Results: Aboriginal women have culturally appropriate ways of expressing and managing pain that are not well understood by non-Aboriginal female nurses. In addition, the Aboriginal women inappropriately endow non-Aboriginal nurses with the same powers and skills expected of healers from their culture. This phenomenon resulted in the non-Aboriginal nurses lacking the cultural insight and the appropriate knowledge and tools required to assess and manage the postoperative pain of Central Australian Aboriginal women effectively or efficiently. Conclusions: Non-Aboriginal nurses have a profound knowledge deficit about the postoperative pain experiences of Central Australian Aboriginal women. This deficit is evident through the use of culturally inappropriate and unreliable pain assessment strategies and tools and the misinterpretation of traditional pain relief strategies, such as the use of pituri, rubbing and centreing. The findings of this study suggested that nurse /client interactions related to language and role interpretation were in cultural conflict. The nurses expected the Aboriginal women to adopt pain behaviours as understood from the nurses' culture. The nurses anticipated that the client would contribute to their own care by communicating pain experiences in ways that are familiar and are believed to be universal. The Aboriginal women expected the nurses to conduct business similar to that of their own traditional tribal healers, 'to see within' and to 'just know'.

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Australian Journal of Rural Health

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Medical and Health Sciences

Studies in Human Society

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