Tips on Treating Refugees

From the August 2017 ACP Hospitalist

Cultural differences, past trauma may impact patient care.

Imagine how an American hospital might appear to a refugee, perhaps someone still struggling with English who has recently left a war-torn and unsettled country. In this strange building, people shuttle in and out of rooms, and there's poking and prodding for tests and procedures, along with seemingly endless questions and intimidating paperwork.

A hospitalist's ability to effectively treat such refugees often relies on a good interpreter but also an awareness of the potential mix of customs and prior experiences that might impact patient care, said Peter Cronkright, MD, FACP, an associate professor of medicine and family practice at Upstate Medical University at State University of New York in Syracuse, N.Y.

For instance, he typically doesn't wear his white coat “so I don't look like I'm somebody from the state or some type of authority,” said Dr. Cronkright, who treats refugees as part of an outpatient residency training facility at Upstate. Given what patients might have experienced in their home countries, “They don't have a real reason to trust authority.”

About 3 million refugees have moved to the United States since the Refugee Act of 1980 formalized the resettlement process, including nearly 85,000 in the most recent fiscal year, according to the Pew Research Center. The refugees' home countries have shifted through the years depending upon areas of conflict, with the largest numbers recently arriving from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Syria, and Myanmar.

Read the full article in ACP Hospitalist.

ACP Hospitalist provides news and information about hospital medicine, covering the latest trends and issues in the field.

Back to the September 2017 issue of ACP IMpact