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. 2012 Jan;9(1):47-55.

Refugees' Perspectives on Barriers to Communication About Trauma Histories in Primary Care

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Free PMC article

Refugees' Perspectives on Barriers to Communication About Trauma Histories in Primary Care

Patricia Shannon et al. Ment Health Fam Med. .
Free PMC article

Abstract

Objective This study explores refugees' perspectives regarding the nature of communication barriers that impede the exploration of trauma histories in primary care.Method Brief interviews were conducted with 53 refugee patients in a suburban primary care clinic in the Midwest USA. Participants were asked if they or their doctors had initiated conversations about the impact of political conflict in their home countries. Qualitative data analysis was guided by grounded theory. Peer debriefings of refugee healthcare professionals were incorporated into the analysis.Results Two-thirds of refugee patients reported that they never shared how they were affected by political conflict with their doctors and that their doctors never asked them about it. Most refugees stated that they would like to learn more about the impact of trauma on their health and to discuss their experiences with their doctors.Conclusion Refugees are hesitant to initiate conversations with physicians due to cultural norms requiring deference to the doctor's authority. They also lack knowledge about how trauma affects health. Physicians should be educated to inquire directly about trauma histories with refugee patients. Refugees can benefit from education about the effects of trauma on health and about the collaborative nature of the doctor-patient relationship.

Keywords: cross-cultural communication; doctor–patient relationship; refugee; war trauma.

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