Last weekend I had an opportunity to see first-hand an interesting approach for participants and researchers in action. Unfortunately I have a medical condition which means I experience neuropathic pain (this is NOT fun!). Therefore I am always on the look-out for any new research regarding managing (and ideally, minimising) pain. The general consensus seems to be that the experience of pain is indeed very complex, and as such pain management requires a complex approach (for example, see the recent research of Tsay, Allen, Proske, and Giummarra).
In my travels I came across the Living Well with Pain Consumer Symposium. This was the detail I received in the invitation:
Painaustralia invites you to attend Living Well With Pain – a consumer symposium to be held at the Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre. Leading Australian experts on pain management will discuss new knowledge about pain, its links with depression and effective ways of communicating and managing pain with and without medication.
This will be of interest to all people living with pain, their families, carers and many others, including policy makers, healthcare professionals and students. Participants will be invited to contribute to a consumer forum, to discuss ideas for improving pain services, locally and potentially, Australia-wide.
I am used to going to conferences where I present my latest research findings to an audience which generally includes other researchers, practitioners, and policy-makers. Attending the Symposium as a person who experiences pain was a totally different experience for a number of reasons. Firstly, as researchers we often forget that each participant (or in this case, patient) is a real person with a complicated life and complicated experiences despite our best efforts to whittle them down to a finite set of characteristics and behaviours. Second, do we give our participants a voice, or do we just think that we give our participants a voice? Third, do we share our findings with our participants? How can we use what we learn to improve the experiences of our participants sooner rather than later (if at all)?
The Symposium was part of the 2015 Australian Pain Society 35th Annual Scientific Meeting “Managing Pain: From Mechanism to Policy” which was held in the same venue. Researchers presenting at the scientific meeting also presented at the Symposium – what a fantastic way to get participants/patients and researchers on the same page!