Dana Maki asks the profession to collaborate and look into the experiences of BAME patients to improve their patient journey
During my junior musculoskeletal rotations in London, I saw people of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) groups being approached differently. They were singled out to be more ‘complex’, ‘severe’ or more likely to need a referral to specialist services than white British people.
I decided to research this matter and two years ago I started a research group called Pain & the Community, supported by the Public Engagement Fund (Brunel University London).
I wanted to understand why physios found working with patients from different cultures challenging, and in parallel explore experiences of BAME communities with pain. The findings included physiotherapists feeling unaware of ethnic minorities’ cultural values that they could incorporate into treatment.
Also a lack of diversity in the workforce. Diversity helps physiotherapists problem solve during in-service training and supervision, and helps the development of trustworthy patient resources. It could dramatically reduce our need for interpreters. And it could make us more approachable to ethnic patients.
Pain patients were at the heart of the group’s research objectives. We want them to have a better experience. To feel that they are being listened to, and not judged by their ethnicity, beliefs, or accent. But it’s been difficult to recruit participants.
We all know that BAME patients are under-represented in medical research. This is true in physiotherapy research as well. We need to re-assess, what makes us inaccessible to these groups? Why are they under-represented?
It will take time to diversify our workforce. But BAME patients are our patients now - today. Beyond MSK, this will likely resonate with physiotherapists in other specialities.
We implore our profession to think of solutions together, and reach out with any suggestions to improve representation of BAME patients in research, and consequently improve our services.
- Dr Dana Maki is a pain physiotherapist and senior lecturer in physiotherapy at Brunel University London
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