One Size DOES NOT Fit All: Black British-Born Mental Health Nurses and Factors Influencing their ‘National’ Health Service Career Progression

Deborah Isaac


Evidence suggests that Black and Minority Ethnic nurses in England’s National Health Service significantly lag behind their White counterparts in Bands 8a, 8b, 8c, 8d & 9 and ‘Very Senior Managers’ positions. Some attribute unequal positions of these nurses to discrimination, racism, exclusion, classism and other forms of disadvantage. Other factors however, are obscured through the accounts of predominantly Black overseas nurses. National Health Service Trusts’ workforce data tends to be gathered using the acronyms BME or BAME. Narrow ascriptions of skin colour or ethnicity to signify experiences of nurses as BME or BAME overlook complexed factors influencing their career. The aim of this study is to understand the career progression of Black British-born nurses as current literature fail to meaningfully account for their experiences. To understand the issues influencing the apparent lag, this study utilised a qualitative approach. Data collection was supported by semi-structured interviews. Unlike other studies, participants revealed very little to suggest discrimination as a hindering factor of career progression. Such a finding indicated that socialised ‘British cultural capital’ constitutes a strong ‘helping factor’ to override the ‘hindering factor’ of their ‘Black ethnic identity’. This implies that National Health Service Trusts equal opportunities policy drivers should apply more robust ethnic monitoring and reporting systems. Consequently, its grading structures would be best placed to represent and compare intergroup nuances between ethnic minority nurses. It will become inescapable for the UKs National Health Service not to address intersectional factors of ethnic identity, due to historical and persistent exposure of workforce inequities.


Black, British, Career, Ethnicity, Nurses, and qualitative study

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