Oral Presentation The 26th International Nursing Philosophy Conference 2023

Whiteness in the Nursing Workplace: A Case for Cultural Safety   (#31)

Shobha Dr Nepali 1 , Rochelle A. Prof Einboden 2 3 , Trudy Prof. Rudge 4
  1. Cumberland Hospital, Westmead, NEW SOUTH WALES, Australia
  2. University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
  3. Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) & CHEO Research Institute, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
  4. University of Sydney, Camperdown, NSW, Australia


According to 2021 statistics, the Australian healthcare workforce consists of a large proportion (38%) of immigrant and coloured nurses. This ratio of the nursing workforce is representative of other Global North nations. However, structural effects of whiteness dominate operations of workplaces, thus, affecting the social relations of work.


Since support in the workplace is expected to be inclusive for all nurses, the aim of this paper is to explore how whiteness shaped the opportunities for professional growth, learning and development, and resultant social relations across different categories of nurses working together.


Ethnographic fieldwork using participant observation and interviews was adopted for data collection. Seventy-six nurses working in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit of an Australian Hospital participated in the study. The concept of intersectionality was used to analyse and interpret the data.


The findings showed how whiteness operated in the nursing workplace. Immigrant and coloured nurses experienced a lack of support, unaddressed racism, and unfair performance management. These practices rendered the workplace unsafe and uninhabitable for these nurses and caused disturbances in the social relations of work. Senior nurses were unaware of how whiteness acted on excluding and marginalising racialised nurses.


Senior nurses are the ones managing the workforce and workplace, and therefore, need to be aware of how the effects of whiteness racialise immigrant and coloured nurses and discriminate against their right to equal opportunity for learning and development in the workplace. Workplaces need to introduce practices of cultural safety to ensure the inclusion of diversity in today’s nursing workforce.


Disturbance in social relations of work undermines the potential benefits of skilled migrant nurses for the organisation. Such knowledge assists in the retention of nurses.