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The refugee experience of acquiring a family doctor

Karen J. Grant (Department of Education, Vancouver Coastal Health, Vancouver, Canada)
Maureen Mayhew (School of Population & Public Health, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada)
Lorena Mota (School of Population & Public Health, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada)
Michael C. Klein (Family Practice/Paediatrics Department, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada)
Arminée Kazanjian (School of Population & Public Health, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada)

International Journal of Migration, Health and Social Care

ISSN: 1747-9894

Article publication date: 16 March 2015

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to explore refugees’ experiences of the barriers and facilitators involved in finding a regular family doctor.

Design/methodology/approach

Hermeneutic phenomenology was used to produce an integrated description sensitive to the lifeworlds of refugees who came from multiple cultural perspectives. Participants consisted of refugees from Iran, Afghanistan, Myanmar, Vietnam, and Latin America who arrived in Canada between 2005 and 2007. Texts for analysis came from first language focus group discussions and interviews with the interpreters for those groups.

Findings

The principal themes that emerged from the experience of barriers were “futility,” “dependence,” and “relevance.” Themes related to the experience of facilitators were “inclusion,” “congruence,” and “benefit to family.” These themes provide key messages about sources of patient decisions to seek or not seek care, not comply, attend irregularly, and not disclose symptoms, which can be used by doctors and other health providers to enhance care planning.

Practical implications

The factors that facilitate refugees’ access to a regular family doctor have implications for the development of culturally appropriate healthcare information, policies that support adequate interpreter services, and cultural sensitivity training for physicians.

Originality/value

Previous research documents barriers such as lack of language access, differences in health beliefs, and lack of knowledge about western healthcare systems. However, little is known about how refugees experience these barriers, nor how they overcome them. This study contributes a rich and deeper understanding of how refugees experience these barriers and elucidates factors that facilitate their process of obtaining a regular family doctor.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

This research was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and by the Department of Family Medicine at the University of British Columbia. The work was carried out as part of the requirement of the Clinical Scholars Program (second author), an accredited program of the College of Family Physicians of Canada. The views described in this manuscript are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Health Authorities. The authors wish to thank the numerous interpreters from Immigrant Services of British Columbia who made this work possible and Mohsen Eslami for his invaluable contributions to this study.

Citation

Grant, K.J., Mayhew, M., Mota, L., Klein, M.C. and Kazanjian, A. (2015), "The refugee experience of acquiring a family doctor", International Journal of Migration, Health and Social Care, Vol. 11 No. 1, pp. 18-28. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJMHSC-12-2013-0047

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited