Research reveals racial discrimination of black sub-Saharan African nurses in rural Australia

23 JUNE 2021

Research reveals racial discrimination of black sub-Saharan African nurses in rural Australia

Charles Sturt University research shows overseas-qualified black sub-Saharan African nurses in Australian healthcare facilities experience incidents of discrimination from their colleagues and patients based on race and skin colour.

  • Charles Sturt University research reveals that black sub-Saharan African nurses in Australia who gained their qualification overseas experienced discrimination by their colleagues and patients
  • There is a global shortage of nurses, with nurse migration between countries being a long-term trend
  • Australia, like other developed countries, has been receiving migrant nurses from the African continent in a bid to reverse Australia’s critical nurse shortage

Charles Sturt University research shows overseas-qualified black sub-Saharan African nurses in Australian healthcare facilities experience incidents of discrimination from their colleagues and patients based on race and skin colour.

Researcher and Lecturer in nursing and midwifery Dr Sophia Dywili (pictured) in the Charles Sturt School of Nursing, Midwifery and Indigenous Health undertook her PhD study exploring the migration experience of sub-Saharan nurses in rural NSW.

An important finding from this study was the discrimination that overseas-qualified black sub-Saharan African nurses experienced from both colleagues and patients.

“The arrival of black African people as skilled professional migrants is relatively new in rural Australia,” Dr Dywili said.

“Like other developed countries, Australia has been receiving migrant nurses from the African continent in a bid to reverse its critical nurse shortage.

“The presence of black sub-Saharan African nurses in Australian healthcare facilities is changing the face of the Australian nurse.”

The research paper, “It’s only the skin colour, otherwise we are all people”: the changing face of the Australian nurse, was published in the Australian Journal of Advanced Nursing (AJAN) (March-May 2021) and was selected as this issue’s ‘Editor’s Choice’ article.

The AJAN’s sister journal, the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Journal, published a focus piece (‘Black African nurses battle racism in rural Australian workplaces, study finds’) as it was deemed of special interest and importance.

Dr Dywili said research literature has shown that globally, overseas-qualified nurses of colour have encountered work challenges that have included racial discrimination in their destination countries.

This Australian research revealed issues of race and colour among colleagues and between patients and overseas-qualified nurses.

“There are pockets of racial discrimination that need to be checked within the Australian healthcare system, because these undermine the confidence of overseas-qualified nurses in their professional practice,” Dr Dywili said.

“They felt unwelcome, not trusted and undervalued, causing them to adopt various coping strategies to adjust to being seen differently.”

She said black African nurses need to feel safe in their workplace and need more support to facilitate their integration.

“Black sub-Saharan African nurses need more support from nurse managers who need to be more vigilant in monitoring staff interactions in their departmental units,” Dr Dywili said.

“They may get this support through close monitoring of staff interactions in the workplace and intervention when racism is noted.

“Understanding and support for diversity at the workplace by all nurses will improve patient and staff safety.”

The research has also shown the power of welcoming people to their new country, and their healthcare facilities, as well as showing the importance of trust and teamwork at the workplace.

“The study also shows the resilience of black sub-Saharan African overseas-qualified nurses in overcoming adversity in their workplace,” Dr Dywili said.


Media Note:

To arrange interviews with Dr Sophia Dywili who is based in Wagga Wagga contact Bruce Andrews at Charles Sturt Media on mobile 0418 669 362 or via news@csu.edu.au

Reference: “It’s only the skin colour, otherwise we are all people”: the changing face of the Australian nurse. Australian Journal of Advanced Nursing, Vol. 38, No. 2 (2021). Sophia Dywili, Louise O’Brien, Judith Anderson. DOI https://doi.org/10.37464/2020.382.263


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