Control of resources in the nursing workplace: Power and patronage relations

Immigrant nurses make up a large percentage of the Australian nursing workforce. Since the support in the workplace is expected to be inclusive for all nurses, the aim of this article is to explore how support and opportunities for professional growth, learning and development are distributed across different categories of nurses working in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). An ethnographic approach has opened an examination of the everyday workplace practices in the NICU to gain insight into how nurses made sense of the social and power relations occurring between themselves and their senior colleagues and how they experienced the support and opportunities they received in their workplace. As today’s workplaces such as the NICU are diverse in races, culture and experiences, the concepts of intersectionality and cultural safety assisted in identifying inequality and injustice related to such diversity. The results showed how patronage relations rendered nurses with immigrant status with major disadvantage and left them clinically and culturally vulnerable. Such inequity defeats the reasons for encouraging skilled migration of nurses and poses questions on the cultural competency of recruiting organizations. Considering how cultural safety might guide staff development offers opportunities for authentic support to culturally diverse nurses.

Areas of Research: cultural safety; ethnography; immigrant nurses; intersectionality; nursing workplace; patronage systems; power relations; racial discrimination

Lead Researchers

Link to Publication


  1. Rochelle Einboden

    Scientist CHEO, Research Institute

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