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Keywords:

  • assimilation;
  • credentialism;
  • critical realism;
  • culture shock;
  • overseas nurse recruitment;
  • racism

O’BRIEN T and ACKROYD S. Nursing Inquiry 2012; 19: 39–50 Understanding the recruitment and retention of overseas nurses: realist case study research in National Health Service Hospitals in the UK

This paper illustrates one of the possible applications of critical realist ideas to the analysis of health services, in the use of comparative case study research design, to elucidate the causal social processes underlying events. In the research reported here, a comparative research design was used as a basis for improving our understanding of the processes involved in the assimilation of overseas nurses (OSN) into the salient long-term workforce of the National Health Service (NHS) hospitals in the UK. The work brought to light the salient experiences of overseas nurses during their initial work in the NHS hospitals, and these were used as a basis for developing an account of the general mechanisms typically underlying the recruitment and assimilation at work. The authors conclude that successful assimilation is often hindered by the presence of occupational closure mechanisms, by which home nurses effectively excluded recruits from participation and promotion; these mechanisms, which articulate with everyday racism, threaten successful assimilation for obvious reasons. If the treatment recruits receive does not lead to withdrawal, it is because they typically have very strong economic motives to continue despite unfavourable and sometimes inhumane treatment. Thus, the research offered substantial reasons why recruitment policies should be reviewed by policy-makers.