Perspectives of Somali Bantu refugee women living with circumcision in the United States: a focus group approach

Michele J Upvall, Khadra Mohammed, Pamela D Dodge
International Journal of Nursing Studies 2009, 46 (3): 360-8

BACKGROUND: The purpose of this study was to explore healthcare perspectives of Somali Bantu refugees in relation to their status as women who have been circumcised and recently resettled in the United States. These women and their families were already uprooted from Somalia to Kenya for over 10 years, increasing their vulnerability and marginal status beyond that of women who have been circumcised.

METHODS AND PARTICIPANTS: A purposive, inclusive sample of 23 resettled Somali women in southwestern Pennsylvania of the United States participated in focus group sessions for data collection. A supplemental interview with a physician who provided care to the women was also conducted. Verbatim audio taped transcripts from the focus groups and physician interview were coded into primary and secondary levels.

RESULTS: Implications for development of culturally competent healthcare providers include attention to providing explanations for routine clinic procedures and accepting the Somali women regardless of anatomical difference, not focusing on the circumcision. Healthcare providers must also develop their skills in working with interpreters and facilitate trust to minimize suspicion of the health care system.

CONCLUSION: Circumcision is considered a normal part of everyday life for the Somali Bantu refugee woman. Communication skills are fundamental to providing culturally competent care for these women. Finally, healthcare providers must take responsibility for acquiring knowledge of the Somali women's challenges as refugees living with circumcision and as immigrants in need of healthcare services.

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