Working well 4: Common misunderstandings between GPs and other staff at Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services

This resource is part of a series of online 'Working Well' resources designed to assist GP Registrars and other health professionals working in Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services (ACCHSs).

You will hear stories and perspectives from a range of people with experience of working in Aboriginal Health in one way or another. We hope this will help you in finding your feet as you contemplate working in ACCHSs in the future.

The resource can be used on your own, in a small group or with a Supervisor. Find out more information about how to use this resource or just click the 'Start' button to begin.

See the full list of Working Well resources.

This project has been funded by Northern Territory General Practice Education (NTGPE) with assistance from AMSANT and the Danila Dilba Health Service (DDHS). Many thanks to all the contributors.

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Working well 4: Common misunderstandings between GPs and other staff at Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services
TOPIC A: Lack of respect
Working Well 1: Differences
Back TOPIC A: Community control
Back TOPIC B: Holistic approach
Back TOPIC C: Cultural safety
Back QUIZ: Check your knowledge
Back SUMMARY: Print or download resources
Working Well 2: The ATSIHP
Back TOPIC A: The role of the ATSIHP
Back TOPIC B: ATSIHP training
Back TOPIC C: Knowledge of community
Back QUIZ: Check your knowledge
Back SUMMARY: Print or download resources
Working Well 3: Challenges
Back TOPIC A: Finding your place within the team
Back TOPIC B: The cross-cultural environment
Back TOPIC C: Addressing complex patient needs
Back TOPIC D: Managing your own expectations
Back QUIZ: Check your knowledge
Back SUMMARY: Print or download resources
Working Well 4: Misunderstandings
Back TOPIC A: Lack of respect
Back TOPIC B: Different levels of knowledge
Back TOPIC C: Resolving misunderstandings
Back QUIZ: Check your knowledge
Back SUMMARY: Print or download resources
Working Well 5: Advice
Back TOPIC A: Get to know the community
Back TOPIC B: Work closely with the team
Back TOPIC C: Manage your own expectations
Back SUMMARY: Print or download resources
Think about the focus question below and click on each of the staff members to listen to what they have to say about this topic.
Question mark
What factors might lead to situations where staff or community members feel disrespected?
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Lack of respect

Basically what happened with one of the GP Registrars - I’d actually seen the client - I’d screened them, I’d got their story. Did a bit of an assessment on them and basically I sort of reached the conclusion - well, this person has possibly got a fracture in their hand and a bit of a, you know, a gash, a little bit of a laceration. Not quite over a joint in the finger, but just near it. So I thought, well, the doctor actually needs to see this, it probably, well definitely, need an x-ray, need to go to hospital.

So, cutting a long story short, I actually went to get that GP Registrar to come down and have a look. She came down and had a quick look. She was going to take the client into her room and I was actually trying to do a handover to her and she walked out the room and she just kept walking off from me. So basically, I was trying to give her the story about what’s happened and what it is that I was needing from her so that we could provide the most appropriate care for that client and she just kept walking. She didn't really have any respect for my profession or what I was trying to do.

She did say that, she said (when we talked about it later) she was just overwhelmed. She was stressed, her head was spinning around and that's what it turned out to be, but... So I had to sort of say to her later on that, you really can’t go doing that because you’re behaving in a really disrespectful manner. Even though you may not have intended it, that's how it comes across.

And I think ... and I also went on to explain a little bit about the history of Aboriginal people. That the things that we did often didn’t matter or we didn’t get any sort of respect or recognition for what we’ve done or anything like that. So sometimes, when you’ve gone through that, or you’ve experienced that sort of thing your whole life, it’s really easy to get offended. And basically if you grow up, you know, constantly experiencing racism and people being really disrespectful towards you and, you know, you feel ... I guess oppressed groups of people often feel that way and so they react in that manner.


Lack of respect

We were at an all-clinical meeting, so there were doctors and there were health workers and there were nurses there. The senior health worker in the clinic, who’s been here for 20 years and is a respected Elder in her own right, gave an opinion at this meeting of the clinical situation we were discussing, from an Aboriginal perspective, and this Registrar piped up and said that that wasn’t so, you know, and there was, offered ... how can I say it ... offered their own perspective, but in a way that denigrated the health worker’s perspective.

Like she was talking from, this is what it’s like from an Aboriginal perspective and the Registrar said this is what it’s like, really, you know, that was the sort of, the inference of the question.

It was a real challenge. It was a challenge, it was sort of like, a challenge to a person who is an Elder in a culture that, and I had to stop, I had to stop that meeting then and talk to them about - this is just a question of respect, you know, if Indigenous people and Elders are talking about issues that affect them then, you listen.

Doctors get a lot of respect from their culture, from our culture, we get a lot of respect. We’re often, people sometimes want to put us on pedestals and whatever and it’s easy for the doctor to, sort of, take that on and then to believe that our opinion is more important than somebody else’s.

And in this situation that’s dangerous, that’s a dangerous thing. You just can’t be seen to be challenging people who are authorities in their own way.

Maida Stewart
Bruce Hocking
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