Cumulative Stigma Among Injured Immigrant Workers: A Qualitative Exploratory Study in Montreal
Côté, D., Dubé, J., Gravel, S., Gratton, D. & White, B.W. (2020)
Disability and Rehabilitation
42(8) | 1153-1166
Purpose: This paper presents the phenomenon of stigmatisation among injured immigrant and ethnocultural minority workers experiencing a long-standing disability. Stigmatisation was one of the main findings of our study, the aim of which was to gain insight into the work rehabilitation process in the context of intercultural relations in Quebec. Various categories of stakeholders took part in the study, which sought to describe their experiences and perspectives and to identify the constraints, barriers, facilitators, and specific needs they encounter in terms of intercultural competencies.
Methods: A purposive sample of 40 individuals was selected and divided into four groups: workers (N = 9), clinicians (N = 15), workers’ compensation board rehabilitation experts (N = 14), and workplace representatives (N = 2). Semi-structured interviews were conducted using the critical incident technique, combined with an “explicitation” interviewing technique. Data collection and analysis procedures were based on grounded theory.
Results: This study shows that immigrant and ethnocultural minority workers may experience stigmatisation as a cumulative process involving different concomitant parts of their “identity”: age, gender, social class, ethnicity, mental health, and occupational injuries. Cumulative stigma may aggravate personal distress and feelings of shame, rejection, and disqualification from full social acceptance. Negative anticipatory judgements made by practitioners may undermine the therapeutic relationship and breach mutual trust and confidence.
Conclusions: The phenomenon of stigmatisation is well documented in the sociological and health literature, but studies tend to focus on only one type of stigma at a time. Future research should focus on the cumulative process of stigmatisation specifically affecting immigrant and ethnocultural minority workers and its potentially damaging impact on self-concept, healthcare delivery, rehabilitation interventions, and the return to work.
Implications for rehabilitation
The repetition of certain clinical situations with people from certain groups should not lead practitioners to undue generalizations, even if they may sometimes be accurate; these generalizations must always be verified on a case by case basis.
Ethnicity and culture, along with other social attributions, should serve as working hypotheses or support tools in health communication, not as hindrances to clinical reasoning.
Practitioners should deepen their understanding of the patient’s treatment expectations and the support available for rehabilitation in his family and community.
Stigma in the context of care is linked to the idea of conforming to the proposed institutional models of care (including expected beliefs, attitudes, and behaviours). Therefore, practitioners should be aware that alleged differences, misunderstanding or disagreements can highlight an asymmetry in practitioner–patient power relationships.
Organisations should also promote exchange and reflection on how to adapt their institutional models to avoid asymmetrical power relations.
Intercultural training should be promoted at the various organisational levels so that managers, decision-makers, and practitioners share a common knowledge of the challenges of intervention in multi-ethnic settings.