Multiracial Patient Experiences With Racial Microaggressions in Health Care Settings

J Patient Cent Res Rev. 2018 Jul 30;5(3):229-238. doi: 10.17294/2330-0698.1626. eCollection Summer 2018.


Purpose: Illuminating patients' experiences of microaggressions in health care settings can help practitioners develop care that is more culturally responsive. While much of the literature on health care disparities focuses on minority groups generally, we sought to identify and to describe the ways in which racial microaggressions manifest for multiracial individuals and families specifically.

Methods: Using a combination of interviews and focus groups, we conducted 15 interviews and 3 focus groups. Eligible participants self-identified as more than one race and/or they self-identified as part of an interracial family, and they and/or someone they considered to be part of their family received health care in the past 12 months. We performed a content analysis to describe the dominant ways racial microaggressions presented in health care interactions.

Results: A total of 31 participants shared their experiences in health care settings, including their experiences with racism, racial bias, and microaggressions. Based on their experiences, we describe 6 prevalent microaggressions: mistaken identity, mistaken relationships, fixed forms, entitled examiner, pervasive stereotypes, and intersectionality. Many acknowledged their experiences with racial microaggressions in health care were similar to those they experienced in everyday settings; however, the power dynamics differed in health care.

Conclusions: Understanding patient perspectives about racial microaggressions suggests opportunities to improve patient-provider communication. For multiracial individuals and families, racial microaggressions may have implications for patient engagement in health care. Findings of this study highlight implications for theory and research as well as opportunities to facilitate systematic improvements in the provision of culturally responsive health care services.

Keywords: culturally responsive care; family; health care disparities; minority health; racism.