Background: Communication with indigenous patients is often a problem for health staff in Australia. Aim: This paper examines the barriers and enablers in communication between health staff and Indigenous carers of paediatric patients in a hospital, about advice to help reduce exposure of children to second-hand smoke (SHS).
Methods: Non-indigenous health staff and Indigenous carers, were recruited from a paediatric ward of a regional hospital in the Northern Territory. A constructivist grounded theory with multiphase case study design and semi-structured interviews was used.
Results: Health staff and carers had different perceptions about raising the issue of smoking. Health staff lacked confidence to talk about smoking and questioned the cultural appropriateness of doing so. In contrast, carers expected to talk about smoking while in the hospital., and perceived it as part of a caring and protective relationship by health staff. English being a second language for carers was considered a significant communication barrier by staff; carers, however, felt that health staff needed to modify their communication styles. The possible misperceptions about carers’ lack of response to messages, led to health staff dropping the subject, when, in fact, carers were struggling with health workers communication styles.
Conclusions: Health staff and carers perceive discussion around smoking differently. Cross-cultural communication education may empower staff to provide effective smoking cessation interventions in this setting. Impact statement: Improving communication between health staff will help ensure the optimal provision of smoking cessation support to carers.