Bedfordshire research identifies ethnic inequalities in nursing

Tue 02 June, 2020
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Research undertaken by the Institute for Health Research at the University of Bedfordshire highlights ongoing inequalities experienced by minority ethnic communities in nursing in the UK.

Irtiza Qureshi, Research Fellow at the University’s Institute of Health Research, conducted interviews and gathered data as part of his PhD, which showed British South Asian (BSA) men were less likely to be accepted on nursing courses and more likely to leave nursing courses without the intended award compared to their White counterparts.

The research is part of a larger body of work within the Institute of Health Research led by Dr Nasreen Ali, looking at widening participation for BAME (black, Asian, and minority ethnic) people and the healthcare workforce.

Further findings included a perceived ‘glass ceiling’ as reported from interviews with participants, alongside data evidencing an underrepresentation of BSA male nurses in senior or management roles.

Irtiza explains: “Individuals from BAME ethnicities make up 19.1% of the NHS workforce (WRES, 2019). Initial analysis shows that BAME staff made up a disproportional 63% COVID-19 related healthcare staff deaths.

“Findings such as participants reporting a glass ceiling and a lack of BSA male nurses in senior roles, are in line with the evidence base which points to the consistent underrepresentation of BAME staff in senior or leadership roles within the NHS.

“Therefore, in this context, the ability of BAME staff to feel empowered to speak up or demonstrate agency can be diminished.

Recent reports have suggested that this inequality has manifested itself in the current crisis by managers re-deploying BAME nurses on to wards with patients suffering with COVID-19. This would increase their risk of exposure to the virus.”

Following the research, recommendations which will work on narrowing the inequalities BAME individuals face in the healthcare profession would begin at recruitment, and continue to influence retention and progression of BSA or BAME male nursing students. 

Irtiza said: “Interviews with Universities providing nursing pre-registration courses could identify potential institutional barriers such as unconscious bias in selection practice for BSA (or BAME) male applicants.

“Nurse managers, and those involved in human resources and organisational development, should also carefully monitor and provide tailored mentoring and support for marginalised and underrepresented groups within their workforce.

“A further recommendation would be to produce marketing materials for nurse recruitment emphasising on the values common to BSA masculinities and the nursing profession.”

Dr Nasreen Ali, PhD supervisor commented: “This study compliments our ongoing work with Health Education England to widen participation in nursing.

"The findings will inform our efforts to develop culturally specific interventions to reduce the stigma associated with the nursing profession in the BSA community, including considering places of worship such as temples, gurdwaras and mosques, as venues for delivery of culturally specific interventions when promoting nursing as a career.”

Irtiza’s PhD sits within a programme of research on Widening Participation at the IHR led by Dr Nasreen Ali which looks at how to increase and diversify the healthcare workforce.

A paper from the study was recently accepted for publication in the Journal of Nursing Management. Click here to read.

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