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Original Research

Vietnamese-born health professionals: negotiating work and life in rural Australia

Submitted: 19 August 2008
Revised: 5 November 2008
Published: 21 December 2008

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Author(s) : Le Q, Kilpatrick S.

Quynh LeSue Kilpatrick

Citation: Le Q, Kilpatrick S.  Vietnamese-born health professionals: negotiating work and life in rural Australia. Rural and Remote Health (Internet) 2008; 8: 1062. Available: (Accessed 23 October 2017)


Introduction:  Australia is a culturally diverse nation due to migrants from a wide variety of countries creating a multicultural society. The health professions are highly valued by the younger generation of overseas-born migrants who have acculturated into Australian society; many have chosen health care as their profession in Australia. However, most migrants settle in metropolitan areas and young health professionals may find working in rural or remote Australia culturally and professionally highly challenging. The present study of migrant health professionals examined the life experiences and acculturation strategies of Vietnamese-born health professionals working and living in rural Australia. Objectives: The two main study objectives were to: (1) examine aspects of the acculturation of overseas-born and Australian-trained health professionals in the Australian health discourse; and (2) identify key coping strategies used by them when in working in the rural context.
Methods:  Six overseas-born, Australian-trained health professionals were invited to participate in this qualitative study using a snowball sampling technique. The participants were all born in Vietnam and had experienced working in rural Australia. They included three medical doctors, a dentist, a physiotherapist and a nurse. The interviews were recorded and four participants also provided additional written responses to some of the open-ended interview questions. The interview data were transcribed and later coded for thematic analysis. Topics and themes that emerged focused on the issues and strategies of acculturation to the rural health context.
Results:  The study showed that the acculturation process was affected by the participants’ views about and attitudes towards working in an Australian rural context. The study identified these essential strategies used by the participants in adapting to a new workplace: collaborating, distancing, adjusting, repairing, and accommodating.
Conclusion:   The study provides insights into the lives of these health professionals in a rural context, and particularly their experience of cultural shock and the coping strategies they may use. A need is identified for a larger study to inform recruitment and retention of these health professionals to rural Australia, and to assist universities to prepare such students and their clinical supervisors for rural placements.

Key words:  acculturation, cultural diversity, migrant health workforce, overseas-born health professionals, rural communities, rural health context, social capital.

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