How do international medical graduates and colleagues perceive and deal with difficulties in everyday collaboration? A qualitative study
Sandal, Gro Mjeldheim
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Aim: Many medical doctors work outside their countries of origin. Consequently, language barriers and cultural differences may result in miscommunication and tension in the workplace, leading to poor performance and quality of treatment, affecting patient safety. However, there is little information about how foreign doctors and their colleagues perceive their collaboration and handle situations that can affect the quality of health services. Methods: Individual, semi-structured in-depth interviews were conducted with two groups of informants 16 doctors who had recently started working in Norway, and 12 unrelated Norwegianborn healthcare providers who had extensive experience working with doctors from foreign countries. Interviews were analysed according to the systematic text condensation method. Results: The foreign doctors described themselves as newcomers and found it difficult to speak with colleagues about their shortcomings, as they wanted to be viewed as competent. The Norwegian colleagues reported that many new foreign doctors had demanding work schedules; therefore, they were reluctant to give them negative feedback. They also feared that foreign doctors would react negatively to criticism. All participants, both the new foreign doctors and colleagues, reported that they took responsibility for the prevention of misunderstandings and errors; nevertheless, they struggled to discuss such issues with each other. Conclusions: Silence was the coping strategy adopted by foreign doctors and native healthcare professionals when facing difficulties in their working relationships. In such situations, many foreign doctors are socialised into a new workplace in which uncertainty and shortcomings are not openly discussed. Effective leadership and procedures to facilitate communication may alleviate this area of concern.