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Migrant nurses encounter discrimination

By Karen Keast | Date Updated:

New Zealand Nurses Organisation researcher Jill Clendon

Asian, Indian and Filipino nurses working in New Zealand often face discrimination from their patients and colleagues, according to the results of a new study.

The New Zealand Nurses Organisation study found 48 per cent of internationally qualified nurses (IQNs) encounter racial harassment from patients and a third receive racial harassment from their colleagues.

The study focused on the country’s increasing multi-cultural workforce, where more than a quarter of nurses are now IQNs, and surveyed the views of almost 1300 New Zealand qualified nurses (NZQN) and IQNs.

It found NZQNs believe there are shortfalls in some IQNs’ training, cultural awareness and English language skills while NZQNs often witness patients directing racism towards Asian
and Indian nurses.

IQNs also reported discrimination and often felt frustrated and disappointed at constrained roles, scopes of practice and career opportunities in New Zealand.

The authors of the report, NZNO researcher Leonie Walker and NZNO nursing policy adviser and researcher Jill Clendon, found:

• Nurses reporting very high numbers of patients stating they do not want to be cared for by a foreign nurse
• 23 per cent of IQNs felt they were working in a position with less scope and responsibility than their previous employment in their home country
• 93 per cent of African nurses, who are non-South African, thought they were working in a lesser role compared with only 3.2 per cent of Indian nurses
• IQNs left feeling de-skilled and underutilised because they were unable to use their skills such as venepuncture, cannulation, epidurals, suturing, treating minor injuries, IV medication, vascular Doppler scans, PEG insertion and anaesthetic technician tasks
• IQN practice nurses expressing frustration at not being able to work as previously, such as running chronic disease clinics or prescribing medication
• IQNs, confined to working in aged care as health care assistants or care-givers, formed the largest group feeling under-utilised
• New-Zealand born and educated RNs of Chinese and Indian ethnicity reporting discrimination and racism at work
• Feelings that favourable rosters, workload, access to interviews or promotions were linked to ethnicity
• NZQNs expressing frustration at IQNs communicating with each other in their own languages while at work
• And NZQNs distressed at witnessing discrimination, and expressing support and empathy for IQNs.

The study states IQNs require “significant support” to make a successful transition to New Zealand nursing and it recommended the development of a good practice guide in a bid to help retain IQNs.
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