Nurses’ experiences of encountering undocumented migrants in Swedish emergency healthcare

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to investigate how nurses’ working in emergency health care in Sweden experience their encounter with undocumented migrants.
Design/methodology/approach – A total of 16 qualitative interviews were conducted and analyzed using a phenomenographic approach, aiming at describing various ways in which nurses experienced undocumentedness.
Findings – The process of assessment involves formal regulations as well as interpersonal features,leading to uncertainty, conflicts and dilemmas when judging such situations. Nurses’ conceptions
concerned the undocumented migrants’ migrant status and social existence; second, conflicts in
encountering undocumentedness pertaining to an identification systems and judgments and emotional reactions; and thrid, shifts within and between arbitrary boundaries, with unclear conditions for interaction
and creative maneuvering.
Research limitations/implications – Further research is needed to develop guidelines or other structures to support nurses who deal with this kind of assessment in their daily work, to reduce ethical dilemmas and the risk of inequitable treatment.
Practical implications – Guidelines to support nurses need to be further debated and discussed and implemented in health care education, as well as in clinical contexts.
Social implications – Increased knowledge and awareness among nurses concerning migrants’ status and rights, might lead to better working conditions for nurses and thus more secure judgments.
Originality/value – Research with a specific focus on emergency nurses’ conceptions of undocumentedness and their strategies for handling the ensuing practical and ethical dilemmas has not been conducted in Sweden before using a qualitative method.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Health Care Service and Management, Health Policy and Services and Health Economy


  • Nurses’ experiences, Encounter, Qualitative method, Emergency care, Undocumented migrants, Sweden
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)148-158
JournalInternational Journal of Migration, Health and Social Care
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Publication categoryResearch