AIMS: To explore whether and how immigrant general practitioners (GPs) in two major cities in Norway think that their own ethnic background affects their practices and their work.
METHODS: Qualitative focus group and individual interviews with seven immigrant GPs, five men and two women, age 36-65 years. Their clinical experience in Norwegian primary health care ranged from four to 30 years. Analysis was conducted by systematic text condensation.
RESULTS: First, immigrant GPs described a gradual process of becoming bicultural: the GPs communicate with immigrant patients on their own terms and draw upon their special knowledge from abroad to help selected patients, while also adapting to Norwegian cultural expectations of the GP's role. Second, the GPs described being aware of cultural issues in consultations with immigrant and Norwegian patients, but rarely making these issues explicit. The GPs ventured that cultural awareness, together with their personal experience in their own countries and as immigrants in Norway, made them able to sometimes help immigrant patients better than Norwegian GPs. Third, immigrant GPs experienced a big workload related to immigrant patients, but they accepted this as a natural part of their work. Fourth, immigrant GPs felt that they had to work harder and be more careful than their Norwegian colleagues in order to avoid complaints from patients, and to be accepted by colleagues.
CONCLUSIONS: Immigrant GPs express broad cultural competence and keen cultural awareness in their consultations. The immigrant background of these GPs could be considered as a special resource for clinical practice.