SKiP goes Online!

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Supporting Kids in Pain (SKiP) is a community based multidisciplinary persistent pain service for children and adolescents based in Brisbane, Australia.  Predominantly our participants come from the region around this metropolitan area.   Whilst Australia and more specifically Queensland has coped quite well throughout the pandemic in relation to the number of cases, we were exposed to restrictions which impacted our ability to deliver face to face services to our patients.   

The multidisciplinary team swiftly adapted to a virtual service and was able to deliver assessment clinics and a pain management group program to a wider geographical clientele.  All aspects of the program were adapted into an online version including mind-body pain education, goal setting, physical exercise sessions, mindfulness and relaxation sessions, nutrition and sleep education.  The number of sessions remained the same however the duration of sessions shortened from 6hrs to 4hrs to factor in online fatigue and data load.  

Through online surveys, feedback has been gathered by both the clinicians and the participants (parents and young people) to identify the benefits and challenges of delivering an online pain program. Positive feedback from participants included – ease of understanding content, suitability of weekly sessions & length of sessions, suitability of Zoom, and the use of powerpoints and workbooks. Some participants reported they would have liked more interaction and activities, one parent reported they would have liked more parental coaching and another reported they would have liked more time with the pain specialist. Interestingly, these comments are not indifferent from feedback we have collected over the years from our face-to-face program participants.  

SKiP clinicians found the online experience to be more positive than generally anticipated. The acquisition of new skills and new ways of engaging participants, the recognised value of telehealth especially for rural and regional clientele and the development of powerpoint slides (which has proven helpful since our return to face-to-face program facilitation) are main positives. Challenges identified by clinicians included rapport building, communication and social interaction which clinicians felt were not the same compared with face-to-face delivery. Overall, clinicians agreed it was a good enough alternative should strict COVID restrictions returned.  

Being thrusted into this situation has provided us with an opportunity to develop a child and youth group pain program that can be delivered remotely and overcome the geographical barriers that exist in Australia. We are committed in further developing our telehealth programs and services so young people and families can have equity and choice in how they access our services and know they are receiving high quality care.  

 Written by: Nicole Haynes and Huong Nguyen