Fighting internal fires: Psychosocial implications of paediatric burn injuries on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families and burn health professionals.

Ms Hayley Williams1, Dr Bronwyn Griffin2, Dr Kate Hunter3, Professor Kathleen Clapham4, Professor  Justin Kenardy5, Professor Roy Kimble1

1Centre for Children’s Burns and Trauma Research, University Of Queensland, South Brisbane, 4101, 2School of Nursing, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, 4000, 3The George Institute of Global Health, University of New South Wales, Sydney, 2042, 4University of Wollongong, Wollongong, 2522, 5School of Psychology, University of Queensland, Brisbane, 4000

Abstract:

Background: Burns are among the most painful and traumatising injuries. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children experience an average of 2.4 times higher rate of burns than non-Indigenous children. However, little is known of the psychosocial impact of burns on these children, their families, and burns health professionals. This study explores the psychosocial impact of burn injuries and care on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, their families, and burns health professionals.

Methods: Ethnography of burns care provided to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children at a Queensland tertiary service, individual yarning sessions with their caregivers, and retrospective ‘thinking aloud’ sessions with burns health professionals were conducted to describe acute burns care from various perspectives. Grounded theory analysis was used to develop categories and theories on the psychosocial impact of burn injuries and care on the injured child, their family, and burns health professionals.

Results: Caregivers (n=19) of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander paediatric burn patients report high levels of psychosocial morbidities such as anxiety, distress, and trauma resulting from the child’s injury and care. As a result, these caregivers and families have specific unmet psychosocial support needs that further exacerbate the impact of injury on the family. Likewise, burns health professionals (n=27) report having unmet support needs in their paediatric burns care working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients.

Discussion: Following these results, psychosocial resources and interventions will be developed in partnership with the caregivers and treating burns health professionals to meet their specific cultural and support needs.


Biography:

Hayley Williams is an Aboriginal researcher currently completing a Doctor of Philosophy with the Centre for Children’s Burns and Trauma Research (CCBTR) team at the University of Queensland, Child Health Research Centre. Hayley has dedicated her research career to improving health care and outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in various settings and health conditions. Hayley is particularly passionate about improving the emotional wellbeing and the resilience of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and adolescents.

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