Local Pain Educators On Tour

Dr Jennifer Smith, 2018 Local Pain Educator from Temora, NSW, shares her reflections on joining the education team during the 2019 Rural Outreach Tour in Tasmania.

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Jennifer Smith - Rural GP and Local Pain EducatorPublished on 01 April 2020

“Umm, Ladies and Gentlemen, we are in the presence of greatness"

  • Good Will Hunting

There is something to be said for spending a week of ones’ life with the most passionate, experienced and credible experts in a field to which you are a newcomer. As a first timer to the tour de force that is Pain Revolution, this last week has been a mind-blowing journey. The humility with which I, a freshly minted Local Pain Educator from the little town of Temora, was welcomed into the fold was truly heart-warming.

I have spent the last week learning and working alongside the brightest minds in the clinical and academic world, not as a trainee or a helper, but as an equal partner. I have lectured with those who have built, from the ground up, practices specialising in difficult to treat persistent pain, with those completing PhD’s in pain neuroscience, and with those who hold in their hands the future of entire professional bodies devoted to training the next generation of clinicians.

Not once did I feel intimidated, scrutinised or ignored. Instead, my contributions were embraced wholeheartedly, with a genuine belief that they were of worth to the fight. That what I did and said mattered as much as anyone else on tour. It is a rare thing indeed to be truly listened to, but to be both heard and then encouraged to speak up is the most empowering thing I have experienced.

“Energy can neither be created nor destroyed; rather, it can only be transformed or transferred from one form to another”

  • First law of thermodynamics

Thank God for our phenomenal cyclists! I strongly believe that it was their gruelling physical exertion that led the power to our education team. And 25 sets of legs, fuelled with adrenaline and some simply sublime homemade cookies, produce some serious energy.

Sitting in the support van on the St Helens to Swansea trip, watching them glide over the breathtaking Tasmanian countryside, I felt for a moment as if anything was possible.

Inspired by the riders, I conceived with my roommate from Albury our very own Pain Revolution tour, jogging from Wagga Wagga to Albury (an idea, which, in the cold hard light of day, is patently ridiculous). I stayed up late into the night having deep discussions on the meaning of life, but still woke at quarter to 6 the next morning refreshed and eager for a morning swim with plenty of energy remaining with which to tackle the oncoming crowds at the Brain Bus.

There was no stopping us. I had embraced the mission to set free the suffering with evangelical fervour, and nothing – not locked doors, not lost keycards, not missing luggage nor broken arms – was going to get in our way.

“Give me a place to stand and I will move the earth”

  • Archimedes

An awful lot of work went into making this tour the success that it was, and I saw how it took a massive team effort. Tracy, with her months upon months of emails, venue enquiries, car hire paperwork, insurance documentation, finance juggles made sure we had food, beds and transport. Trevor, with his ceaseless work to get “bums on seats”, made certain like a modern-day John the Baptist that every town we were visiting was fully aware of our mission. Angie shepherding her little flock of local pain educators, some of them only weeks old, whilst simultaneously captaining the complicated juggernaut of education rosters, tech support, powerpoints and panellists to ensure every single place we visited had a balanced and high-quality presentation. All this was done quietly and without comment, and that barely scratches the surface of the cohesive teamwork that enables a tour like this to work as it does.

The result was that in every single place we visited, we had waiting crowds who were eager and willing to embrace Pain Revolution’s messages – that pain is protection, knowledge is power, and healing is inevitable.

Those of us in the education team stood out the front and shared our stories, and then listened, and watched. In return, we saw the marks of an emerging revolution - the nod of agreement from health professionals equipped with both the scientific backing and tools for translating modern pain management, the determined expressions on the faces of longstanding pain sufferers who were committing to bravely giving these concepts a go, the exultant stories of pain heroes who proudly vouched to their communities the merits of the recovery model we were championing. And the numbers reached were amazing – in Scottsdale, a town of under 2400, we had 35 people come to listen to our presentations. That’s over 1 in 100 people in the town on board and passionate about bringing real recovery through knowing pain. And this in an isolated town on Tuesday afternoon.

“Some people make cutting remarks, but the words of the wise bring healing”

  • Proverbs 12:18, NIV

Tasmania is a land in need of healing. In our travels around the island we were lifted by the natural beauty, the community spirit, the rich history of this wonderful island. But in this phenomenal place are some big challenges.

We heard stories from those without consistent medical providers, those stuck in the cycle of poverty and overwork, those burnt out after years of chasing the “cure”. There is a desperate need for consistent workers in the field of pain science to ensure our message does not get lost or forgotten. And this is where the ongoing investment in local pain educators and community leaders is so important. We are not here to make promises we cannot keep.

We have heard, we have shared, but this is just the beginning of the journey. To all those who came along for the ride, I am deeply grateful. And to the next generation of local pain educators, may your journey be as fulfilling, rich and rewarding as mine has been, as you change the face of our nation for good.

Viva la revolucion!

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Jennifer SmithApril 01 2020

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