"It's only the skin colour, otherwise we are all people": The changing face of the Australian nurse

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The aim of this paper is to report on the experience of racial discrimination by black sub-Saharan overseas qualified nurses working in rural Australia.
Background: The arrival of black African people as skilled professional migrants is relatively new in rural Australia. The presence of black sub-Saharan African nurses in Australian healthcare facilities is changing the face of the Australian nurse. Australia, which like other developed countries, has been receiving migrant nurses from the African continent in a bid to reverse its critical nurse shortage. Literature has shown that globally, overseas qualified nurses of colour have encountered work challenges that have included racial discrimination.
Study design and methods: A qualitative hermeneutical phenomenological approach was used. Eighteen nurses were purposively selected using personal invite and a snowballing technique. Data collection involved individual face to face interviews and a focus group discussion.
Results: The exploration of experiences revealed issues of race and colour among colleagues and between patients and overseas qualified nurses. Overseas qualified nurses experienced incidents of discrimination based on race and skin colour from their colleagues and patients. They felt unwelcome, not trusted and undervalued. They adopted various coping strategies to adjust to being seen differently.
Discussion: The literature suggests that overseas qualified nurses tend to be discriminated against in their destination countries. In this paper the migration experience of black sub-Saharan African overseas qualified nurses has shown the power of welcoming people to their new country, the existence of discrimination by race at their healthcare facilities as well showing the importance of trust and teamwork at the workplace. The study has also shown the resilience of black sub-Saharan African overseas qualified nurses in their time of adversity.
Conclusion: There are pockets of racial discrimination that need to be checked within the Australian health care system. These undermine the confidence of overseas qualified nurses in their professional practice.
Implications for research, policy and practice: The results provided insight into the existence of racism within the workplace. Black African nurses need to feel safe in their workplace and need more support to facilitate their integration. Nurse managers need to be more vigilant in monitoring staff interactions in their Units. Understanding and support for diversity at the workplace by all nurses will improve patient and staff safety.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13-22
Number of pages10
JournalAustralian Journal of Advanced Nursing
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 26 May 2021


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