“I can’t just follow any particular textbook”: immigrants in cardiac rehabilitation


L. Seto Nielsen: e-mail: lisa.seto@utoronto.ca


Aim.  The study purpose was to examine how and under what circumstances immigrants combine diabetes self-care with cardiac rehabilitation recommendations.

Background.  Cardiac rehabilitation can improve and lengthen life in people with coronary heart disease as it promotes healthy physical and psychosocial behaviours and outcomes. This study is the first to examine the convergence of two common issues on participation: (1) the problems posed when cardiac rehabilitation patients must also contend with type II diabetes and (2) the experiences of immigrants in cardiac rehabilitation.

Design.  A critical ethnographic approach was employed.

Methods.  Two in depth interviews were conducted with 18 immigrants (eight men, ten women) enrolled in cardiac rehabilitation. Data were collected from 2008–2010.

Findings.  Threaded throughout immigrant participants’ descriptions were biographical accounts of crossing geographical borders, establishing a sense of belonging in their adopted country and trying to feel ‘at home’ in cardiac rehabilitation. Participants described creative hybridization of transnationally informed knowledges and particularized practices to manage diabetes self-care and to reduce cardiac risk. Participants judiciously considered, assessed and blended knowledges from cardiac rehabilitation, experience with their own bodies and general ‘wisdoms’ passed on within their own and other immigrant communities.

Conclusion.  These findings suggest that migration constitutes an important social positioning that contextualizes individual efforts to activate diabetes self-care and cardiac rehabilitation. Support to immigrants may improve when nurses recognize the significance of such experiences. Efforts are needed in practice and research to recognize and explore immigrants’ creative efforts to engage in cardiac rehabilitation.