Asylum seekers often have complex medical needs. Little is known about the cultural competences health care providers should have in their contact with asylum seekers in order to meet their needs. Cultural competence is generally defined as a combination of knowledge about certain cultural groups, as well as attitudes towards and skills for dealing with cultural diversity. Given asylum seekers' specific care needs, it may be asked whether this set of general competences is adequate for the medical contact with asylum seekers. We explored the cultural competences that nurse practitioners working with asylum seekers thought were important. A purposive sample of 89 nurse practitioners in the Netherlands completed a questionnaire. In addition, six group interviews with nurse practitioners were also conducted. A framework analysis was used to analyse the data of the questionnaires and the interviews. From the analysis, several specific competences emerged, which were required for the medical contact with asylum seekers: knowledge of the political situation in the country of origin; knowledge with regard to diseases common in the country of origin; knowledge of the effects of refugeehood on health; awareness of the juridical context in the host country; ability to deal with asylum seekers' traumatic experiences; and skills to explain the host country's health care system. Apart from these cultural competences specific for the situation of asylum seekers, general cultural competences were also seen as important, such as the ability to use interpretation services. We conclude that insight into these cultural competences may help to develop related education and training for health care providers working with asylum seekers.
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