Accustomed to Enduring: Experiences of African-American Women Seeking Care for Cardiac Symptoms

Angela D. Banks, University of San Francisco
Ruth E. Malone


OBJECTIVE: Understand the meaning of delayed treatment seeking in African-American women with unstable angina and myocardial infarction.

METHODS: Phenomenologic analysis of in-depth interview data and field notes on 12 African- American women hospitalized with unstable angina or myocardial infarction.

RESULTS: Women’s interpretation of and response to symptoms were informed by experiences of marginalization and their self-understanding as people who were strong and who had endured life’s hardships. When hospitalized, some women experienced trivialization of their complaints by clinicians and a focus on technological procedures over respectfully attending to their concerns, which provided further disincentives to seeking care. Three major themes emerged: misrecognition and discounting of symptoms, enduring, and influence of faith.

CONCLUSIONS: Experiences of marginalization shape responses to symptoms, care-seeking behavior, and interpretation of subsequent care experiences for African-American women with cardiac disease, who may experience different symptoms as well as interpret them differently than members of other groups.