Publication Date



refugee, health care utilization, integrated care, mental health, engagement


Purpose: A growing number of refugee groups are seeking care within the U.S. health care system for medical, psychological, and social needs. Research is limited in understanding refugee-specific conceptualizations of helping relationships and provider characteristics that improve interactions in health systems. This study aimed to identify provider characteristics that facilitate engagement and helpfulness in a refugee-specific population from refugee participant voices to inform future practices of health care clinics.

Methods: Semi-structured interviews with refugee participants were conducted to assess 1) experiences moving on from difficult experiences, 2) engagement with the health system, and 3) provider characteristics that facilitated engagement and healing. Qualitative data were analyzed using a grounded theory approach.

Results: An emergent theory was revealed on refugee-defined provider characteristics that facilitated healing and engagement in the health system. Providers who support an individual’s story to be told, show awareness of barriers to accessing resources and prioritization of addressing barriers, maintain cultural humility, and demonstrate compassion, empathy, warmth, and openness toward patient engagement were the primary characteristics that facilitated engagement and healing.

Conclusions: Utilization of engagement strategies by providers at the onset of treatment is critical to providing culturally sensitive health care. Nonspecific but essential provider characteristics are thought to improve relational dynamics, trust-building, and overall engagement in the U.S. health care system from the perspective of refugee participants.




March 6th, 2023


July 13th, 2023


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