‘We’re here to listen and help them as well’: a qualitative study of staff and Indigenous patient perceptions about participating in social and emotional wellbeing research at primary healthcare services
Background: Research can inform culturally-appropriate care to strengthen social and emotional wellbeing (SEWB) among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (hereafter, the term ‘Indigenous Peoples’ is respectfully used and refers to all Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Peoples of Australia). We acknowledge the cultural diversity of Australia’s Indigenous First Peoples and they do not represent a homogenous group.) (hereafter Indigenous) Peoples. We explore the perspectives of primary healthcare staff and Indigenous patients about their willingness to and experiences participating in SEWB research.
Method: Process evaluation using grounded theory approaches of Getting it Right: The validation study, a national validation designed Indigenous SEWB research project (N = 500). Primary healthcare staff (n = 36) and community members (n = 4) from nine of ten primary healthcare services involved with the research project completed qualitative semi-structured interviews. Interview data were triangulated with participant feedback (responses to structured questions and free-text feedback collected during Getting it Right), study administrative data (participant screening logs, communication logs, study protocol, deviation logs and ethics correspondence) and interviewer field notes.
Results: Three themes about staff, patient and community perspectives concerning research participation developed: (1) considering the needs, risk, preferences and impact of participation in research for staff, patients and community; (2) building staff confidence speaking to patients about research and SEWB problems and (3) patients speaking openly about their SEWB. Some staff described pressure to ensure patients had a positive experience with the research, to respond appropriately if patients became upset or SEWB problems were identified during interviews, or due to their dual role as community member and researcher. Patients and staff reported that patients were more likely to participate if they knew the staff outside of the service, especially staff with a shared cultural background, and they perceived SEWB as a community priority. Staff reported their skills speaking to patients about the research and SEWB improved during the research, which built their confidence. Contrary to staff preconceptions, staff and patients reported that many patients appreciated the opportunity to speak about their SEWB and contributing to research that may eventually enhance SEWB in their community.
Conclusion: Our research project was considered acceptable by most staff and patients. The positive outcomes reported by staff and feedback from patients highlights the importance of providing opportunities for people to speak about their SEWB and for research-informed SEWB PHC care.