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Insights from the shadows: exploring deservingness of care in the emergency department and language as a social determinant of health

Abstract

This study addresses the existing gap in literature that ethnographically examines the experiences of Spanish-speaking patients with limited English proficiency in clinical spaces. All of the participants in this study presented to the emergency department (ED) for evaluation of non-urgent health conditions. Patient shadowing was employed to explore the challenges that this population face in unique clinical settings like the ED. This relatively new methodology facilitates obtaining nuanced understandings of clinical contexts under study in ways that quantitative approaches and survey research do not. Drawing from the field of medical anthropology and approach of narrative medicine, the collected data are presented through the use of clinical ethnographic vignettes and thick description. The conceptual framework of health-related deservingness guided the analysis undertaken in this study. Structural stigma was used as a complementary framework in analysing the emergent themes in the data collected. The results and analysis from this study were used to develop an argument for the consideration of language as a distinct social determinant of health.

  • emergency medicine
  • medical anthropology
  • medical humanities
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