Migrant nurses in New Zealand often experience racism and misunderstanding which impedes patient care, research suggests

Massey University research suggests migrant nurses are often exposed to racism in New Zealand, and that cultural differences can lead to frustration that could compromise patient care.

Nurse, hospital (file picture). Source:

The university said in a release that a study was undertaken involving an online national survey and interviews, and that it found "communication breakdowns were common, reducing the efficacy of clinical teams".

Associate Professor Marget Brunton said the number of internationally-qualified nurses in New Zealand has increased over time.

"Nursing is now an internationalised workforce and the New Zealand health sector is reliant on migrant nurses to deliver care," she said.

"Around one-quarter of registered nurses in New Zealand have qualified overseas and both New Zealand and internationally-qualified nurses need to adapt to the changes this brings."

Dr Brunton said many nurses experience frustrations with the way medical staff and nursing staff interact, which can vary considerably between countries.

"Many come from countries with very hierarchical relationships between doctors and nurses so there is a clear demarcation between medicine and nursing," she said.

"While New Zealand nurses recognised the clinical expertise of their foreign counterparts, they wanted their colleagues to be able to speak up and advocate for patient wellbeing, rather than being merely task-focused."

Internationally-qualified nurses also experienced racism in the workplace from patients and their families, the research showed, which could lead to an uneven allocation in work if patients refused to be treated by migrant staff.

"We are often told that exposure to different cultures leads to acceptance, but that requires the time and space to explore differences," Dr Brunton said.

"That's not possible for most nurses so the differences more commonly cause frustration, which impedes effective patient care."