Doctors on the move 2: a qualitative study on the social integration of middle eastern physicians following their migration to Germany

Global Health. 2022 Aug 26;18(1):78. doi: 10.1186/s12992-022-00871-z.


Background: The integration of immigrating physicians has become a challenge for many societies and health care systems worldwide. Facilitating the integration process may benefit both the uptaking country and the immigrating physicians. Previous studies have approached this problem from a system integration perspective. The present study explores the degree of social integration of an exemplary group of Middle Eastern physicians following their migration to Germany from an individual perspective.

Methods: Based on social constructivist epistemology, a series of fifteen interviews and two focus groups with immigrated Middle Eastern physicians (n = 23, purposively sampled) were conducted between 2017 and 2020 in Germany. The audio recordings were transcribed, translated into English and analysed deductively based on Esser's model of social integration, consisting of four dimensions: acculturation, positioning, interaction and identification.

Results: The social integration of the participants showed a multifaceted picture. The early phase was characterized by disorientation and trial and error. Cultural differences were of major importance. Acculturation was facilitated by German language acquisition and increased over time, although some cultural difficulties remained. Professional positioning was facilitated by the need for physicians and a relatively low-hurdle relicensing procedure. Interaction and identification depended on the efforts of the individual physicians.

Conclusions: This study provides a comprehensive picture of the individual social integration of Middle Eastern physicians in Germany. Language and cultural adaptation are identified as being of primary importance. Social integration can be facilitated through orientation programmes or cross-cultural training that benefits the uptaking countries as well as the immigrating physicians.

Keywords: Germany; Global health; International medical graduates (IMG); International migration of health personnel; Middle East and North Africa (MENA); Social integration.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acculturation
  • Focus Groups
  • Germany
  • Humans
  • Physicians*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Social Integration