Perspectives of oncology health workers in Flanders on caring for patients of non-Western descent

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This study was undertaken to gain insight in the views and experiences of oncology healthcare providers in Flanders, the Dutch-speaking part of Belgium, on caring for patients of non-Western descent. A qualitative research design with the constant comparative method was used. Data were collected through five focus group interviews, with 23 oncology health workers as participants. Barriers and difficulties were paramount in the provision of care to patients of non-Western descent. Participants want to act according to their professional standards, which call for treating all patients equally and providing appropriate care. However, a focus on medical aspects occurs, wherein ‘cure’ takes precedence over ‘care’, when participants were not willing or not fully able to overcome barriers. This results in feelings of inadequacy in those participants who equate professional standards to care of equal quality. Participants who interpreted their professional standard as equivalent care were irritated by ‘these’ patients who restrained them from providing appropriate care. The findings indicate that professional standards provide protection against possible discrimination that may result from personal beliefs. Extending professional standards from ‘treating all patients equally’ to ‘care attuned to each patient’ might be a way to prevent ‘cure’ taking precedence over ‘care’.

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