Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy

Program

Sociology

Supervisor(s)

Dr. Tracey L. Adams

Abstract

In the context of an enduring shortage of nurses, this study explores the career pathways and experiences of immigrant and Canadian-born nurses in two Ontario cities utilizing a qualitative research design consisting of 70 in-depth interviews. Differences in career entry and experiences of workplace conflict across immigration status and race are explored.

First, I explore successful immigrants’ pathways into the nursing profession and their social and economic integration into the Canadian economy in light of the traditional assimilation and segmented assimilation theories. The study reveals distinct career pathways taken by foreign-born nurses and Canadian born nurses. While Canadian-born nurses have a shorter and a more direct pathway into nursing, foreign-born nurses, especially IENs and visible minority nurses, face more complex systemic and multidimensional challenges in transitioning into the profession. I conclude from this study that the segmented assimilation theory cannot accurately capture immigrants’ experiences in nursing as it does not take into account the conditions of the labour market. Second, I examine nurses’ conflicts with patients and family members/friends, the sources of the conflicts, the role of racial status, and the coping mechanisms used. I find that racial status influences the experience of conflicts at the workplace. Visible minority nurses experience verbally aggressive behaviours more frequently relative to White nurses. This, I find impedes their integration in the nursing profession. Third, I examine conflicts amongst nurses and the implications of intra-professional conflict for the nursing profession. The findings show that conflicts centre on workloads and tasks, as well as race and age. The study reveals evidence of White nurses engaging in social closure, sometimes excluding and marginalizing visible minority nurses. Nonetheless, I find the response of visible minority nurses’ foster professional unity and not division.

This study calls for skilled immigrants seeking nursing integration to be provided with adequate information on the requirements and necessary credentials needed for their professional integration before migration and upon professional entry. Also, the removal of factors that create toxic work environments and reproduce workplace inequality are pertinent in promoting the wellbeing of nurses, their professional integration, and quality healthcare.