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Keywords:

  • Aboriginal health worker;
  • occupational therapy;
  • partnership;
  • rural and remote practice

Abstract

Objective: To describe the extent and nature of demonstrated professional partnerships between occupational therapists and Aboriginal health workers in rural and remote communities of North Queensland. The study identifies ways in which professional partnerships improve client services and enhance occupational therapy outcomes through exploring the aspects of communication, collaboration and bridging cultural boundaries.

Design: Data collected via in-depth, semistructured telephone interviews.

Setting: Aboriginal and mainstream health and human service organisations in rural and remote North Queensland. Rural and remote areas were identified using the Accessibility and Remoteness Index of Australia codes.

Participants: Seven participants working in rural and remote areas of North Queensland, comprising four occupational therapists and three Aboriginal health workers. All participants were female.

Results: Participants identified five core themes when describing the extent and nature of professional partnerships between occupational therapists and Aboriginal health workers. Themes include: professional interaction; perception of professional roles; benefits to the client; professional interdependence; and significance of Aboriginal culture. According to participants, when partnerships between occupational therapists and Aboriginal health workers were formed, clients received a more culturally appropriate service, were more comfortable in the presence of the occupational therapist, obtained a greater understanding of occupational therapy assessment and intervention, and felt valued in the health care process.

Conclusions: This study substantiates the necessity for the formation of professional partnerships between occupational therapists and Aboriginal health workers. The findings suggest that participation in professional partnerships has positive implications for occupational therapists working with Aboriginal clients and Aboriginal health workers in rural and remote regions of North Queensland.