July 30, 2021

Dealing with pain in a pandemic

Here’s a timely story for Pain Week. It is a story of persistence in the face of a pandemic.

It concerns our Pain Entry Program (PEP), part of our Persistent Pain Service, a group based, face to face program that was the entry point to the pain service for clients.

When COVID-19 put such group gatherings at risk, it had to quickly evolve into becoming TelePEP, offering a combination of online and telephone-based services.

However, it wasn’t without its challenges as Sarah Slater, Pain Service Coordinator, explains.

“In order to participate in TelePEP, clients were contacted to determine if they had internet and email access and would agree to participate. Those willing were first emailed a link allowing them to complete an initial pain entry questionnaire online.”

“All clients who attend a Persistent Pain Service in Australia are asked to complete this same initial pain questionnaire, known to us as the ePPOC – Electronic Persistent Pain Outcome Collaboration.”

Once a client had completed the ePPOC questionnaire, they were sent an email containing a link to an education video on YouTube. This education video was recorded by our pain team clinicians and involved an overview of the Northern Health Persistent Pain Service, together with a brief introduction to pain education.

After the client had watched the education video, they were contacted by a pain team clinician for an interview over the phone and to ascertain ‘where to next’ in their journey with the pain service.

The ePPOC report for Northern Health for 2020 showed that 32 per cent of the clients who accessed our pain service last year required an interpreter.

This process got even more exciting says Sarah, when working closely with the Transcultural & Language Services (TALS) team, the online presentation was translated into Arabic, the biggest non-English speaking client group accessing the pain service.

“At the end of May, the first group of clients to participate in this Arabic TelePEP had their 1:1 triage interviews with clinicians, using the TALS service.”

Sarah believes, “The introduction of the TelePEP and its translation into Arabic is one of the key adaptations to our service in response to the COVID-19 restrictions that will have a lasting positive impact.”

The TALS team are planning to translate the TelePEP into more languages, “so that we can better meet the needs of the Northern Health clients from non-English speaking backgrounds wanting to access the pain service,” she says.

The feedback has been very positive and ranged from, “The person I spoke with during my triage interview was most interested, understanding and helpful,” to “I was given clarity that my personal pain management and what I have been doing to be able to deal with my pain on a daily basis is the right track.”

The TALS team are now working on the translation and recording of the TelePEP into Turkish, the second biggest language group, and will look at providing other languages if needed and appropriate.

Stefania Zen, TALS Manager, is very proud of the result with the Arabic version of the TelePEP and praised the translator and reviewer involved.

“They did an incredible job translating the power point, the transcript and then recording the oral presentation in Arabic, as well as translating the patient survey and the feedback received,” Stefania says.

Featured image shows Sarah Davies, Community Therapy Service Clinical Coordinator at Broadmeadows Hospital and Imad Hirmiz, Arabic/Assyrian/Chaldean Interpreter/Translator, TALS.