Distrust and patients in intercultural healthcare: A qualitative interview study

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The importance of trust between patients and healthcare personnel is emphasised in nurses’ and physicians’ ethical codes. Trust is crucial for an effective healthcare personnel–patient relationship and thus for treatment and treatment outcomes. Cultural and linguistic differences may make building a trusting and positive relationship with ethnic minority patients particularly challenging. Although there is a great deal of research on cultural competence, there is a conspicuous lack of focus on the concepts of trust and distrust concerning ethnic minority patients, particularly in relation to the concept of ‘othering’.


To study which factors help build trust or create distrust in encounters between healthcare professionals and hospitalised ethnic minority patients, as well as study the dynamic complexities inherent within the process of ‘othering’.

Research design:

Qualitative design, in-depth interviews and hermeneutic analysis.

Participants and research context:

The interviewees were 10 immigrant patients (six women and four men – eight Asians, two Africans – ages 32–85 years) recruited from a south-eastern Norwegian hospital.

Ethical considerations:

Study approval was obtained from the hospital’s Privacy Ombudsman for Research and the hospital’s leadership. Participation was voluntary and participants signed an informed consent form.


Distrust and othering may be caused by differences in belief systems, values, perceptions, expectations, and style of expression and behaviour. Othering is a reciprocal phenomenon in minority ethnic patient–healthcare personnel encounters, and it influences trust building negatively. Besides demonstrating general professional skill and competence, healthcare personnel require cultural competence to create trust.

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