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Ethnicity affects job chances for new nurses

Newly qualified nurses from minority ethnic groups are “disadvantaged” when it comes to getting a nursing job in London, ground breaking research has found. 

The odds of obtaining job offers are significantly lower for newly qualified nurses from some minority ethnic groups, according to researchers, which they described as “clearly unsatisfactory”. 

Previous research has suggested internationally recruited ethnic minority nurses are disadvantaged in employment opportunities. But this is the first to explore whether the issue also affects newly qualifieds from minority ethnic groups that have undertaken nursing education in this country.

The study involved 1,047 newly qualified nurses graduating from eight universities in London.

It showed that the odds of receiving an offer of employment by the time of qualification were lower than white British nurses for all the minority ethnic groups studied.

But the results were most striking for black African and Asian/Chinese ethnic groups, where the odds of having a job offer were half or less that of students of white British origin.

The study authors said the findings raised some “very important questions” about what factors influenced employment opportunities for newly qualified nurses from non-white and ethnic groups.

They questioned whether higher education institutions were giving minority ethnic students enough support, noting in particular help with interview technique. 

They also said it was important to consider the influence of the nurse recruitment process itself, highlighting that senior NHS management posts were dominated by white British people, and “therefore possibly….interview panels for nursing posts as well, which may influence recruitment”.

The authors said: “This study has demonstrated that minority ethnicity does lead to employment disadvantage, both for the individual and for the diversity of the workforce that is dealing with diverse needs in its patient population.

“Underneath there are persistent and difficult issues that universities and NHS employers need to tackle together.”

NHS Commissioning Board chief nursing officer Jane Cummings said she was “disappointed” by the findings and warned that “discrimination in any form is unacceptable and illegal”.

“Nursing leaders at all levels should be aware of the need to provide equality of access to jobs and opportunities for all staff.”

Ms Cummings said she was working closely with her BME advisory group, the Royal College of Nursing’s BME group and the NHS Confederation to address issues affecting minority ethnic nurses and midwives.

“Together, we are identifying a range of work to support BME nurses and midwives and to promote the huge benefits of a diverse nursing community,” she said.

The study, published in the International Journal of Nursing Studies, forms part of a research programme on factors affecting newly qualified nurses in the capital.

It was commissioned by the strategic health authority NHS London following concerns from nursing directors and educators on a range of issues affecting newly qualifieds, including competency, attrition, mentorship and equality.  

A spokesman for the SHA said: “NHS London welcomes this early work that was commissioned by our chief nurse, Professor Trish Morris Thompson, and will be integrating the initial findings into education commissioning plans.

“We also welcome the valuable contribution this work makes towards improving the quality of our future nursing welfare and ultimately patient care.”

In a separate report, published last week, the Royal College of Midwives said black midwives made up a disproportionate number of those facing disciplinary proceedings in London.

Using the Freedom of Information Act, the college requested information on disciplinary proceedings at 24 trusts in the capital over a 12 month period ending in June 2011.

While 32% of midwives in London were black/black British, 60% of the midwives disciplined were black/black British.

The RCM said its data also suggested there were harsher penalties for minority ethnic staff. Of the 10 midwives dismissed during the 12 months, all were black/black British.

RCM chief executive Cathy Warwick said the findings were a “real cause for concern”.

An NHS London spokesman said the SHA would look “very closely at the data collated”.

Readers' comments (20)

  • Tell me about it, it is not just London, but Cambridge too!

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  • I am not superised one bit by this report. This has always being happening a long time and even worse now than before. I have experienced this myself No Quelification or experience will help.BME communities will always be disadvanged.
    This not just in london and maybe they should do more research in all of the UK up north especially.

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  • That's worrying!

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  • As devil's advocate one could of course say that the figures indicate that BME staff are less efficient as they are so often in trouble. From this one could extrapolate that it is reasonable to employ less of a group which is so prone to errors....

    What I would like to see is fairness in the system which might actually mean recruiting fewer students from BME groups. This paradox can be explained by the fact that I have been at a number of interviews where BME students have been recruited in the name of diversity - even though they wouldn't have been recruited if they were white... All we are doing is storing up problems for the future, and with the attainment levels of Pakistani and West Indian and African kids being poor at junior and senior school it is reasonable to suggest that we should only take those who meet required standards. With the graduate curriculum this is more likely to happen, and when we recruit the best I will look forward to more and more BME matrons and chief nurses.

    I now await the fury of those who would put correctness ahead of logic...

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  • I am of West Indian origin and I will not sit here and be accused of having less than substantial level of education in the West Indies. You need to get your facts straight before you slurr your racists comments on the page. I am not surprised that Black and ethnic nurses are treated the way they are with persons like the person making the previous comment being on interviewing panels and being senior nurses.
    I know that nurses who are not BME can get away with what BME cannot. We need a fairer system, but how can it be with persons with this kind of mentality. BME will always be the ones to suffer under an unfair system.Equality within diversity I would say.

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  • Alas, if you are different you will have those that are too small minded to appreciate the value that diversity can add. As a degree level individual who is about to embark on another degree to change career and become a nurse I enter the profession in the hope that my colleagues and my managers will view and appreciate my skill and intelligence above the colour of my skin. I have had a varied career to date and whilst it's been difficult, my skills and attributes have so far won through. With regards to children of BME being of low education attainment, research has proven that social status has a bigger impact on how well a child will achieve at school than the colour of their skin... I know that in 2010 the government were concerned about the low attainment level of children that weren't BME, especially boys.

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  • Majority os studies conducted indicate that BME staff are 10 times more prone to be disadvantaged or looked down upon.
    the incidence of these cases does not mean capability so please colleagues look into the reasons why.
    Instead of continuing the process of inequality we should be looking into finding ways of correcting the discrimination.

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  • "it is reasonable to suggest that we should only take those who meet required standards. With the graduate curriculum this is more likely to happen, and when we recruit the best I will look forward to more and more BME matrons and chief nurses."

    Racist slurs?
    I reckon that at interview I would turn down any candidate who is incoherent. What irks me is the suggestion from some lecturers we should take BME candidates in the interests of diversity [i.e. the Uni wants to be seen to be recruiting strongly]. If the candidate is weak we are not doing them a favour and may be wasting 3 years of their time if they seem likely to struggle. Those who do struggle and need to extend courses are then less likely to be recruited as we will have referred them during training.
    If I were a racist I would NOT be writing that I look forward to more BME senior nurses. I would argue that racism is more inherent in the view that BME candidates deserve preferential treatment. In the past I have turned down a white nurse for discussing overseas cultures in a disrespectful fashion, and have appointed many BME nurses to places on courses where they excelled and were then able to go on to become sisters and SSNs.

    I still hold that we need a level playing field and diversity should never be placed above ability...

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  • As a nurse myself. I have seen BME nurses struggling to move from band 5 to six. They have gone from one interview to another but still do not get the band six post.You would think all the interviews they have gone for would prepare them to a successful interview in future but no they are still at band 5.They have spend five years in that ward but not skilled enough to lead the team at band six level. Shockingly, a newly qualifiednurse from a white background will come in and within 18months she will be a band 6 nurse.During the 18months period you can see the newly qualified white nurse being supported through. Why do they not show the same support to the black nurse showing 5years of dedication to the ward. When this discrimination goes out of the window the NHS will be a comfortable environment to work in. Acceptance of colour is needed desperately. Not everyone could be white

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  • I would agree that there is a problem with promotion of BME nurses and believe there is a degree of racism at work here. I am a firm believer that equality of support and opportunity is required. As far as everyone being white goes I think the NHS would be a poorer place if we were all white in a muli-ethnic society!

    And despite this stance I was accused of racist slurs above...

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  • Anonymous 12.53. There are instances of white band 5's attending multiple interviews for Band 6 posts and have failed because their face doesn't fit. Some of the student nurses I have mentored have now overtaken me and are band 6 whilst I am considered a junior band 5. It's not nice when it happens irrespective of your ethnic origin, or your gender, or your sexuality or your disability.

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  • It is a sad fact that racism still plays such a huge part in Nursing today. As a Black nurse of Caribbean descent ( British born and bred may I add) I have seen racism in its many forms in the workplace.
    As a student I have witnessed, ethnic minority students who performed poorly, treated differently from their white 'poorly performing' counterparts. Not only by white professionals but other ethnic minorities too.
    Poor performance in ethnic nursing students is generally seen as a lack of ability on their part to undertake the role. When in many instances it is a lack of support from nursing staff on placement that fails these students. Black students who complain, are deemed to be troublemakers. Which only adds to affecting their learning experience during placement. In many respect it is easier to' put up and shut up'. Far easier to do this and scrape through with minimal support than to complain and endure poor treatment and be failed and lose their Nursing place.

    I complained after 4 weeks of humiliation, on placement. I was berated for not understanding certain medical facts I had not undertaken before. Assigned with Nursing staff that where so busy that learning had to take a back seat in order to get through the shift .
    All the right noises where made , with a new mentor assigned. Who may I add was very good, but again lack of opportunities to work with said mentor, meant I was at the mercy oftentimes of other less forgiving Nursing staff. Who delighted in making the placement experience a living hell. It was hard to report the abuse as it was insidious and as a result very hard to prove. Consultations with other ethnic minority students endorsed my belief in this area.
    Working in Nursing although highly rewarding can be scary at the best of times. As Nurses we have a 'duty of care' .
    Placements should be a supportive learning environment for all regardless of race, sex , gender , age or abilities. Mentors have a role to ensure this takes place.
    As first year Nursing Students we where advised by a member of the teaching staff to be aware of toxic mentors and their ability to hinder our learning experience. and offered advice on coping with this.
    It is a sad indictment of the Nursing profession that as students we need to be made aware of this probability.
    White students too are affected by lack of support, however tend to be more vocal in challenging poor learning support when it occurs. And there is ( I am sad to say) a tendency for them to be taken more seriously. Minority nurses are on the lower band of the food chain and this is represented in how we are perceived as members of the nursing workforce. This may I add is not always the case, I have worked in placements that have been supportive of all students regardless of ethnicity. These placements however where few and far between.
    There is a culture of fear within the NHS based on race. In many respects there are some outstanding nurses out there of every hue but far more of dubious intention.
    I have worked with exceptional white and minority nurses. I have no doubt I will do so in the future. But we must address the fact that discrimination is prevalent in Nursing. It not only affects ability to learn but self confidence in nursing ability. All of which are key factors when applying for work. This needs to be addressed. There are exceptional ethnic minority nurses who are falling short on their abilities not due to capability but lack of structured support in the work environment. There is too a hierarchy based on race and a drive to retain the racial hierarchy of a particular department. I have witnessed recruitment based on this time and time again. I believe it is at the heart of non recruitment and not a lack of ability on newly qualified nurses part.

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  • I completely disagree with the research findings. It is not a matter of being black or white. I am of African origin. I have not had any problem with job interviews because i am black and so have my friends. I have moved up bands very quickly during my nursing career. I have been qualified 4 years but i now work as a nurse specialist - band 7. Instead of blaming other peolpe, these nurses should prepare themselves, do all the necesary checks ensuring they have covered all areas before attending interviews.
    Stay positive and focused on your jobs. This ''because i am from an ethnic minority'' will not get anyone anywhere!!!

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  • tinkerbell

    Anonymous | 23-Nov-2012 1:06 pm

    Well said. The best person for the job regardless. I have always worked with mixed ethnicity group, my very first nursing officer 25 years ago when i was a student was BME, didn't stop her, not saying she had it easy but she got where she was probably cos' she was the best candidate for the job.

    Good for you and everyone who succeeds regardless of skin colour.

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  • Just a quick story on this. I went for a band 6 interview so did one of my colleague who is BME, she got the job, the told me i did not have the confidence for the job..............few months later she went on maternaty leave and the manager was of sick and the serivce manager ask me ( who has not got confidence for the job) to act up??????? ( i do not interview well, i get anxious) So did i confidence or not????????

    Do not get me wrong i was pleased for my colleagye that she got the job i am now in a job i love and it is a band 6 ( took me nearly 10 years but i did)

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  • What is remarkable is the absence of posters names!

    Speaks volumes..

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  • "As devil's advocate one could of course say that the figures indicate that BME staff are less efficient as they are so often in trouble. From this one could extrapolate that it is reasonable to employ less of a group which is so prone to errors...."

    Dissecting this paragraph will, hopefully, make the author realise how racist it is. No wonder the preamble starts with "As DEVIL's advocate... evil indeed. There is clear danger in pseudo-intellectuality, that is to use "indicate" and "extrapolate" without full realisation as to their appropriate usage.

    Proud Member of the BME and have great respect to humanity, regardless of skin tone.

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  • To anon 20/11 3:44
    I am from the West Indies. The British came recruiting in my home town when the English did not care too much to get into nursing. I was a very bright student, my science and mathematics was way ahead of the white British in my nursing class. When I went unto the wards to do my placements I was mostly left to toilet the patients and do basic care while my white colleagues would be taken by the sister or nurse in charge for teaching sessions. They become more knowledgeable in different techniques as they were given the supervised practise while I had to learn from reading only.
    I will never be a racist because I can never stoop so low. I have met racist from all kinds of race and I have met good, decent people also from all kinds of race.
    We are all God's children and we must always seek what is right and good.

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  • equality- especially in Health care system is only in papers.It is not only in London but all over U.K. Most of the BME staff are aware of this but just keep quiet knowing that nothing much can be done about this.Even if they talk something about this,others will gang up against them.
    The less hard working and less talented white British are much more in favor of getting promotion in career,lesser hard work and other advantages than their very hard working,talented and experienced BME colleagues.If one or two BME staff got promoted it may be due to luck.

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  • It is clear that racism and discrimination is still an issue in nursing in this country . And a lot needs to be done , how God knows because the top top matrons and seniors in the department are the worst culprits .Most of the times promotion to higher posts is based on the colour of the skin or well one can speak the 'English' language .Shameful really

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