"Reduced to nods and smiles": experiences of professionals caring for people with cancer from black and ethnic minority groups

Alison Richardson, Veronica Nicky Thomas, Ann Richardson
European Journal of Oncology Nursing: the Official Journal of European Oncology Nursing Society 2006, 10 (2): 93-101; discussion 102-5
Despite growing research in the UK suggesting that patients from black and ethnic minority groups feel that they do not always receive the best treatment and care, little is known about how care professionals themselves respond to working with this group. The study, involving focus groups with health and social care staff, was undertaken to learn about their views and experiences. The principal finding was the extent to which staff experience difficulties in caring for patients from black and ethnic minority groups. Entailing serious challenges to their own professional practice, these were found to arise at all stages of patients' experience of cancer, including at diagnosis, during treatment and at the palliative phase. Staff were concerned that their inability to communicate with some patients meant that they were not able to provide them a good service, as they could not develop an easy relationship and talk around issues. Yet it could be difficult to work with interpreters, as well as family members, both of who could be reluctant to translate important information. They were also conscious of not being fully sensitive to patients' differing cultures, while noting the importance of not making assumptions about particular beliefs or behaviour. Staff would welcome training to help them to explore their attitudes and assumptions in working with black and ethnic minority patients, but did not seek induction into the detailed practices of different cultures. Some staff felt they would benefit from training in working with interpreters.

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