The Experience of Sub-Saharan African Overseas Qualified Nurses Working in Rural NSW: A Hermeneutic Phenomenological Study

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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The phenomenon of international nurse migration is not new. More nurses are seeking employment across national borders. Trends of international nurse recruitment show an increase in the movement of nurses between developing and developed countries. By 2007, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries reported 11% of nurses working there as foreign-born. Australia joined other developed countries in actively recruiting nurses from overseas to meet their domestic demand for nurses; and these overseas qualified nurses (OQNs) included those from sub-Saharan Africa. In Australia, OQNs are found in both urban and rural areas. Experiences of OQNs in their destination countries have been discussed extensively in the literature. However, experiences of OQNs in rural and remote areas of their destination countries, Australia included, remain minimally explored as evidenced by limited published research; hence, the study focus on rural areas. Furthermore, there is less information specifically on the experience of sub-Saharan African nurses in Australian rural areas. It is unknown if their experiences are similar or different from those of migrant nurses from other continents.
The research study sought to explore the experience of OQNs following their migration from sub-Saharan Africa to work in Australia. The study explored how these OQNs gave meaning to and made sense of their migration process and their daily working and social life experiences in rural New South Wales. Gadamerian hermeneutics guided the processes of this inductive study. Eighteen sub-Saharan African OQNs shared their experience through individual face-to-face interviews and a focus group discussion. They were conveniently selected, mainly through the snowballing technique.
Three themes were identified from the hermeneutic analysis of the participants’ transcripts and presented as findings chapters. Chapter 6, The Move Across the Indian Ocean, presented the first theme as participants described their experiences as they left their countries and arrived in Australia. Chapter 7 described the New Life in an Alien Land as perceived by participants as they negotiated the Australian workplace systems and way of life. Chapter 8 presented the third theme, Developing a Sense of Belonging and Moving On, as participants sought ways of becoming part of their communities and moving on with their lives in their newly adopted country. The findings are discussed together in Chapter 9.
The findings of the study indicated that participants embarked on their migration journey in response to push and pull factors of international migration, although the process for them was more complex. Participants experienced a warm welcome from management teams in rural Australia. However, they soon had to contend with negative responses by some of their colleagues and patients in the workplace which led to the participants’ perception of being alienated in the workplace through discrimination and disadvantage based on race. Participants called on their resilience and persistence to remain focused on their migration goals. The study also uncovered cultural differences that participants had to negotiate as they settled into a new life in rural Australia.
This thesis makes an original contribution to scholarship by adding more knowledge on international nurse migration. Recommendations for further research and to help guide nursing practice, nursing management and international recruitment are made.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Charles Sturt University
  • Anderson, Judith, Principal Supervisor
  • O'Brien, Louise, Co-Supervisor
  • Dietsch, Jennie, Principal Supervisor
Award date11 Dec 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Grant Number

  • Nurse migration
  • Sub-Saharan Africa
  • Overseas qualified nurses


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