“I am still passionate despite the challenges”: Nurses navigating the care for refugees

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Aims and objectives:

To report the challenges faced by the nursing workforce in refugee health.


Nurses are in the forefront of care provision for refugees who are recognised as one of the most vulnerable population groups in the world. The number of refugees in Australia is increasing, and more nurses are needed as care providers. Research on the challenges faced by refugee health nurses is sparse.


Qualitative research methodology was used to study the experience of refugee health nurses. Using a descriptive qualitative research approach, a better understanding of the ongoing challenges of caring for refugees is presented.


Semi-structured interview with a convenience sample of registered nurses who worked in New South Wales refugee health services was conducted and digitally recorded in 2013. Responses were transcribed verbatim and analysed for themes.


Six refugee health nurses who have been working in New South Wales refugee health services between 1–8 years participated in this study. A thematic analysis of the data led to three main themes: caring for clients with challenging needs; challenges in the course of caring for refugees; and passion in caring for refugees. Participants reported what it means to be refugee health nurses, they explored their roles and emphasised the need to understand refugee health issues.


This study provides more insight into the unique experiences nurses have when caring for refugees. More debriefing opportunities and resources may reduce the challenges of caring.

Relevance to clinical practice:

The refugee health nurses' stories support the need for further role refinement for nurses caring for refugees in the community, rural areas and health clinics. This is essential in promoting their well-being and that of the vulnerable population they are caring for.

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