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Questions about Refugee Care? See the January Edition of “Ask the NP” for Resources for Caregivers and Healthcare Providers.

With one heartbreaking photo, the media lens of 2015 became sharply focused on the plight of refugee migration. Citizens and health care practitioners throughout Canada acknowledged the record number of displaced persons in the world, particularly in the Middle East, and were compelled to do more. Indeed, this spirit of good will has been overwhelming whereby, the Canadian federal government in turn has pledged to bring up to 25,000 Syrian Refugees to Canada in 2016.


Nurse Practitioners in the community and acute care settings across Ontario will be part of this response. How do we blend our current expertise with the best evidence to care for these families? First and foremost we must remember that these people are fleeing unimaginable horror and instability, with some living in refugee camps for several years. As of September 2015, 4 million Syrian refugees have been displaced to camps and temporary shelters in surrounding countries such as Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Iraq. At Crossroads Refugee Clinic at Women’s College Hospital in Toronto, we have been caring for Refugees since 2011.

Refugee Care Guidelines for Primary Care

Refugee care guidelines for Primary Care (Pottie et al, 2011) are evidence based, well utilized clinical guidelines for immigrants and refugees and provide a framework for refugee health screening and assessment: . The guidelines pay particular attention to women’s health, mental health, chronic illness and screening for communicable disease. A further update to this document has recently been released (Pottie et al, 2015) to focus specifically on screening and care for Syrian refugees:




For those NPs caring for children, The Canadian Pediatric Society has an excellent online resource “Caring for Kids New to Canada” (available in English and French):  (English) and  (French).



Furthermore, Canadian municipal, provincial and federal government branches have developed settlement, housing and health care resources to support the ongoing arrival of Syrian refugees. While some of the links below may be Ontario focused, many may be applicable to NP practice across the country. Some of this information will get you started in the rewarding work of refugee health care.


Citizenship and Immigration Canada country profile for Syria

City of Toronto: Refugee Resettlement Program

Crossroads Clinic: Syrian Refugee Clinics information and hotline

A Review of Mental Health and Psychosocial Wellbeing of Syrians
Hassan, G, Kirmayer, LJ, Mekki- Berrada A., Quosh, C., el Chammay, R., Deville-Stoetzel, J.B., Youssef, A., Jefee-Bahloul, H., Barkeel-Oteo, A., Coutts, A., Song, S. & Ventevogel, P. Culture, Context and the Mental Health and Psychosocial Wellbeing of Syrians: A Review for Mental Health and Psychosocial Support staff working with Syrians Affected by Armed Conflict. Geneva: UNHCR, 2015

Article By:

Vanessa Wright, NP-PHC, MScN

Nurse Practitioner-Primary Health Care|The Crossroads Clinic

Women’s College Hospital

Toronto, ON.


Roseanne Hickey, NP-PHC, MScN

Nurse Practitioner-Primary Health Care|The Crossroads Clinic

Women’s College Hospital

Toronto, ON.


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