What is this research about?
The researchers examined the nature of information in foreign-trained health professionals’ lives as they attempt to integrate into the North American labor market and the role that online discussion forums play in channeling the discussions.
What do you need to know?
Foreign-trained health professionals arrive in the United States and Canada to find a professional environment that is often unwelcoming and complex. They are faced with a combination of
unfamiliar healthcare system, terminology, information sources and information-seeking practices.
What did the researchers do?
Researchers designed a mixed methods study combining content analysis of online forum postings along with semi-structured interviews with foreign-trained health professionals. They focused on an analysis of the messages posted to online discussion forums directed at foreign-trained professionals (with a focus on health professions) to explore the information practices observable on these platforms. Content analysis was carried out on a sample of postings directed at foreign-trained health professionals in five online forums: AllNurses and Trackitt in the United States; and Canadian Desi, LoonLounge and CanadaVisa in Canada.
Among the questions that guided the research are:
What did the researchers find?
Online communities supported by online discussion forums help these health professionals integrate into the local healthcare system. The interactions in online forums include requesting guidance and clarification about the North American system, sharing experiences and stories, expressing visceral or affective reactions, offering opinions, and negotiating the norms and etiquette of the forum. The content of the postings mostly revolve around issues relating to the immigration process, certification and employability. Other issues identified can be grouped into three categories: information preparedness, information as support and informational practices.
It is not only important to create information services but also successful communities in which foreign-trained health professionals cannot be simply informed but also involved in the sharing of information and experiences. Online forums and other social media seem to contribute to the formation of these nascent social networks, and provide an often elusive link for the foreign-trained professional to her peer community of health professionals.
How can you use this research?
Not enough time and research has been spent looking at the informal spaces where newcomers support each other online. These sites, apps, groups, and social networks have grown over time and become increasingly private spaces. There is value in researchers as well as practitioners spending more time understanding these network spaces, how they work, where they fit in the immigration and settlement process, and where they can play a role.