Professional Experiences of International Medical Graduates Practicing Primary Care in the United States

A study to characterize the professional experience of international medical graduate (IMG) physicians in the United States found that they experience workplace discrimination, expect professional limitations, experience challenges transitioning to U.S. culture and medical practice, and bring unique skills to their work.

This study used in-depth, in-person interviews to characterize the professional experience of non-U.S.-born IMGs – physicians who did not attend medical school in the U.S. or Canada – from limited-resource nations who practice primary care in the U.S. The research team developed a coding system and applied it to the interview data.

Key Findings:

  • IMGs experience subtle and overt workplace discrimination from colleagues and supervisors.
  • IMGs see professional limitations as a tradeoff for the greater opportunities afforded by practicing in the U.S.
  • IMGs experience challenges transitioning to U.S. culture and medical practice.
  • IMGs bring unique skills to their work, including being better able to care for minority patients.
  • Other minority health care professionals also experience social isolation and difficulty with advancement and navigating the workplace.

Opportunities to optimize IMG workplace experience include education, acculturation strategies, enhanced support during transitions, adapting workplace policies and efforts at cultural awareness and sensitivity in workplace. These strategies may also improve the professional experience of other minority health care professionals.

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