Cultural Humility: A Collaborative Approach to Recruiting Patients with Deliberate Self-Harm into a Multi-Hospital Randomized Controlled Trial

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Suzanne H. Brownhill Garry J. Stevens Trent E. Hammond Richard Baldacchino Rose Maposa Bonyface Makoni Aviva Sheb'a Jagadeesh Andepalli Anita Kotak Olav D'Souza Azadeh Atashnama Anish Thayil Alison Jones


Objectives: The ‘SMS SOS’ Deliberate Self-Harm (DSH) Aftercare Study was conducted in Western Sydney, Australia (October 2017 to December 2020) across three large public hospitals. During this randomized controlled trial (RCT), it was observed that knowledge exchange between key stakeholders and their ‘cultural’ perspectives (for example, Mental Health Clinicians, Lived Experience Mental Health Consultants—Patient Representatives, Administrative Officers, and Researchers) was essential to effective recruitment of patients experiencing DSH. Knowledge exchange within and between cultural groups was maximised and assessed using a communication matrix. This process, transferable to other trials engaging multiple ‘cultures’, aimed to promote the early identification of wider-team strengths as well as active management of emergent issues that would otherwise impede patient recruitment, and to maximise funding and human resources.

Methods: A descriptive study was conducted with a convenience sample of team members who represented different cultures in the study. Qualitative data were elicited from a ‘know and tell’ matrix. Through an iterative process, themes were generated that encapsulated what team members needed to know from and tell to their colleagues concerning the study.

Results: Factors that impacted participation in the study included clinician workload, the level of motivation/ commitment/confidence of clinicians to recruit patients, clinician-patient engagement, perception and expectations of study involvement, inter-cultural communication, and clinician training and support. The findings of this multidisciplinary consultation informed a composite model of knowledge exchange and the development of educational briefing/ orientation modules that make explicit team members’ roles and responsibilities to foster group member participation and enhance patient recruitment.

Conclusions: It is incumbent upon multidisciplinary team members of large-scale studies to adopt a similar ‘knowledge exchange’ strategy early in the planning and design stage. Adoption of such a strategy has the potential to mitigate risk of delay in project timelines, improve project outcomes, and ensure the efficient use of research funding, particularly in newly established research teams within clinical settings and with members newer to formal research collaborations.

Keywords: cultural humility; deliberate self-harm; engagement; participant recruitment; participatory research; randomized controlled trial


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BROWNHILL, Suzanne H. et al. Cultural Humility: A Collaborative Approach to Recruiting Patients with Deliberate Self-Harm into a Multi-Hospital Randomized Controlled Trial. Journal of MultiDisciplinary Evaluation, [S.l.], v. 17, n. 39, p. 1-14, mar. 2021. ISSN 1556-8180. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 13 june 2021.