Importance of whanaungatanga (connection) and whānau for people with chronic pain

Rangi McGlinchey (69) is grateful for the aroha of her whānau and her Te Ao Māori (Māori world) beliefs, which have given her the strength to live with chronic pain for the past 35 years. Video featuring Rangi McGlinchey

Rangi has been involved with a CCN (Canterbury Clinical Network) project which has brought consumers and health providers together to co-design a new model of care for people with chronic pain (long-term condition that often starts as an injury, accident, or illness).

When asked what the health system can do better to support people living with chronic pain, Rangi believes it’s not necessarily a tangible list of actions that are needed, but a conscious shift in the way health workers connect with patients.   

“People working in health need to kōrero with patients and learn their whole story, rather than concentrate on just their chronic pain. If they take the time to build whanaungatanga (connection) they will build trust,” says Rangi. 

In the past, Rangi has felt that clinicians are not interested in her whole story and are too hasty to make assumptions, which they include in her patient records without checking if they have captured the details correctly.

“They also don’t often consider my Te Ao Māori beliefs. They mention te whare tapa wha, but don’t use it as part of my appointments. My Māori world view and spirituality are extremely important to me, which I want to be considered in my healthcare.”

Rangi didn’t trust surgeons following a series of operations that didn’t go well. This changed when she met a surgeon who took the time to get to know Rangi and her whānau over a one-year period. 

“He relieved some of my fears and earned my trust, so I went ahead with the surgery, which was successful and allowed me to move on with my studies and career in social work, as well as care for my whānau.”

Rangi’s main support is her whānau, especially her husband who is very familiar with her medical history. 

“Support from inside the home is most important, for example when I had hip surgery my husband installed handrails and made sure our home was safe for me to access.” 

“When I was extremely sick, my husband asked our children to read to me – hearing their voices was healing for me. My whānau have always been there for me, and I feel for those that don’t have this support.”

This is why Rangi believes it is important for health workers to connect with the whānau, as well as the patient. 

“They shouldn’t talk to the ceiling or at people, they need to make connections and include the patient and their whānau.”

“You’re in charge – only you know your body, not the doctor. If you can’t speak, you need your whānau to speak for you. They also need to listen for you.”

“If we get things right for Māori, we’ll look after everyone. We don’t look at what suits just for ourselves, we look for the wellbeing of all.”

Rangi believes that when we are well connected with our wairua (spirit and soul), our whānau and our health care teams we are better equipped to live with chronic pain, rather than suffer with it. 

Watch Rangi talk about her journey with chronic pain. 

Background about the Chronic Pain project
Consumers and health care providers have partnered over the past year to co-design a new model of care for people living with chronic pain - a long-term condition which often starts following an injury, accident, or illness. 

The project has explored how to support general practice teams and community allied health providers to support people with chronic pain in the community and reduce the demand for specialist care.  

Recommendations are being implemented, which includes collaborating with Te Tumu Waiora, a programme that has Health Improvement Practitioners (HIPs) and Health Coaches based in general practice who can support the wellbeing of people with chronic pain, help them make a plan and give them information and tools to help manage their health. 

The project team is also working to update and refine relevant health pathways to support clinicians caring for patients with chronic pain and working with existing providers to establish peer support groups.  

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