Immigrants in emergency care: Swedish health care staff's experiences

S Hultsjö, K Hjelm
International Nursing Review 2005, 52 (4): 276-85

BACKGROUND: During the past few decades Sweden has developed into a multicultural society. The proportion of patients with different cultural backgrounds increases, which naturally makes new demands on health care staff.

AIM: To identify whether staff in somatic and psychiatric emergency care experienced problems in the care of migrants, and if so to compare these.

METHOD: The study design was explorative. Focus group interviews of 22 women and 13 men working as nurses and assistant nurses at an emergency ward, an ambulance service and a psychiatric intensive care unit were held.

FINDINGS: The results showed that the main problems experienced in all wards were difficulties related to caring for asylum-seeking refugees. Some dissimilarities were revealed: unexpected behaviours in migrants related to cultural differences described by staff working in the emergency ward; migrants' refusal to eat and drink and their inactive behaviour in the psychiatric ward; and a lot of non-emergency runs by the ambulance staff because of language barriers between the emergency services centre and migrants.

CONCLUSION: The main problems experienced by the health care staff were situations in which they were confronted with the need to care for asylum-seeking refugees.

PRACTICE IMPLICATIONS: These emphasize the importance of support from organizational structures and national policies to develop models for caring for asylum-seeking refugees. Simple routines and facilities to communicate with foreign-language-speaking migrants need to be developed. Health care staff need a deeper understanding of individual needs in the light of migrational and cultural background.

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