Career Advancement: The Experiences of Minority Nurses in Accessing Leadership Positions in a Tertiary Care Setting


  • Naima Bouabdillah UQTR
  • Amélie Perron University of Ottawa
  • Dave Holmes University of Ottawa



minority nurses, social capital, leadership, nurse managers, diversity, Othering


Minority nurses are underrepresented in leadership roles in the Canadian healthcare system. The purpose of this study was to explore MNs’ perceptions and experiences with regards to career development and MNs in leadership positions. Twelve nurses, four Caucasian and eight from the Caribbean and Africa in a tertiary care setting were recruited through purposive sampling. Face-to-face semi-structured interviews were conducted, transcribed, coded, and analyzed using critical ethnography. Findings revealed lack of social support, of equal opportunities, of recognition and of trust. Despite negative experiences, minority nurses recognized the value of their work experience at the hospital where they were employed. Committing to a diverse workforce in leadership roles can ultimately have an effect on patient care. Minority nurses’ leadership is needed to provide role models and to ensure the delivery of competent care to diverse populations.


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biographies

Naima Bouabdillah, UQTR

Naima Bouabdillah has been a professor in the Department of Nursing at the University of Quebec at Trois Rivières (UQTR) since 2018. She completed her B.Sc N, Masters and Doctorate in Nursing at the University of Ottawa, Canada. She held the position of Assistant Director of Undergraduate Studies at the School of Nursing at the University of Ottawa where she taught several courses from 2011 to 2018 as a part-time professor. Early in her career, she practiced as a Registered Public Health Nurse in Winnipeg, Manitoba. She is interested in research with marginalized populations that include people of color, visible minorities and refugees who experience various forms of exclusion. Her research uses social science-based theoretical frameworks to conceptualize socio-professional relationships based on otherness, marginalization, and the process of inclusion.

Amélie Perron, University of Ottawa

Amélie Perron is Full Professor at the School of Nursing at the University of Ottawa and Co-President of the Nursing Observatory. Her clinical practice is grounded in community psychiatry and crisis intervention. As a researcher, she has worked on many research projects in psychiatric nursing and forensic psychiatry in Canada, France and Australia. Her research interests include power relationships between health care professionals, patients and care settings; nursing care to captive and marginalised populations; issues of discourse, risk and ethics; and nursing epistemology. Through her work with the Nursing Observatory, Professor Perron is more specifically interested in the sociopolitical aspects of care, whistleblowing in healthcare and nurses’ political action. She is co-author of “On the politics of ignorance in nursing and health care: Knowing ignorance” (2015, Routledge) and co-edited “Power and the Psychiatric Apparatus: Assistance, Repression and Transformation” (2014, Ashgate) and “(Re)Thinking Violence in Health Care Settings: A Critical Approach” (2012, Ashgate). Professor Perron is also Editor of Aporia – The Nursing Journal, a peer-reviewed international and bilingual (EN/FR) journal. Her work is funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

Dave Holmes, University of Ottawa

Dave Holmes is Professor and University Research Chair at the University of Ottawa, School of Nursing (Canada) and also Researcher at Institut national de psychiatrie légale Philippe-Pinel (Montréal, Canada). After completing his B.Sc. (Ottawa, 1991), M.Sc. (Montreal, 1998) and Ph.D. (Montreal, 2002) in Nursing, he has completed a CIHR post-doctoral fellowship in Health Care, Technology and Place at the University of Toronto (2003). To date, he has received funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, to conduct his research program on risk management in the fields of public health and forensic nursing. Most of his works, comments, essays, analyses and empirical research are based on the poststructuralist works of Deleuze & Guattari and Michel Foucault. To this day, he has published over 170 articles in peer reviewed journals and 55 book chapters. He his a fellow of the American Academy of Nursing and the Canadian Academy of Nursing. In 2020 he was listed one of the top 2% most cited researchers (since 1965) in the world by Stanford University (December, 2020).


Alexis, O. & Vydelingum V. (2004). The lived experiences of overseas black and minority ethnic nurses in the National Health Service in the south of England. Diversity Health Social Care, 1(1), 13-20.

Bouabdillah, N., Holmes, D. & Tourigny, J. (2016). Visible minority nurses and vertical mobility in hospitals. Recherche en soins infirmiers, no 127(4), 71-81. DOI:

Ayoola, A. (2013). Why diversity in the nursing workforce matters. Princeton, NJ: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Banister, G., & Winfrey, M. E. (2012). Enhancing diversity in nursing: A partnership approach. JONA: The Journal of Nursing Administration, 42(3), 176-181. DOI:

Bessent, H. (2002). Minority nurses in the new century. Characteristics and workforce utilization patterns: A survey. Washington, DC:American Nurses Association

Boréus, K. (2006). Discursive discrimination: A typology. European Journal of Social Theory, 9(3), 405-424. DOI:

Bourdieu, P. (1980). Le capital social, notes provisoires. Actes de la recherche en sciences sociales, 31:2-4.

Bourdieu, P. (1986). The Forms of Capital. In J. Richardson (Ed.), Handbook of Theory and Research for the Sociology of Education (pp. 241-258). New York: Greenwood.

Bourdieu, P. and Wacquant, L. JD. (1992), An Invitation to Reflexive Sociology, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Canales M. K. (2010). Othering: Difference understood?: A 10‐year analysis and critique of the nursing literature. Advances in Nursing Science, 33, 15–34. DOI:

Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse, Rapport triennal 2013- 2016, Loi sur l’accès à l’égalité en emploi dans des organismes publics, décembre 2016, p. 20-39.

Cope, V., & Murray, M. (2017). Leadership styles in nursing. Nursing Standard, 31(43), 61–70. DOI:

Covell, C., Primeau, M., Kilpatrick, K., & St-Pierre, I. (2017). Internationally educated nurses in Canada: Predictors of workforce integration. Human Resources for Health, 15(1), 26. DOI:

Daniel, P., Chamberlain, A. & Gordon, F. (2001). Expectations and experiences of newly recruited Filipino nurses. British Journal of Nursing, 10(4), 254-265. DOI:

Etowa, J.B., Price, S., Debs-Ivall, S. (2011). Strengthening the ethno-cultural diversity of the nursing workforce in Canada. International Journal of Arts & Sciences, 4(26), 75–87.

Georges, C. A. (2012). Project to expand diversity in the nursing workforce. Nursing Management. 19(2), 22-26. DOI:

Granovetter, M. (1995). Getting a Job: A Study of Contacts and Careers, 2nd edn. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press. DOI:

Grove, NJ., Zwi,AB. (2006) Our health and theirs: Forced migration, othering, and public health, Social Science and Medicine, vol. 62, pp. 1931 - 1942, 10.1016/j.socscimed.2005.08.061 DOI:

Hawthorne, L. (2006). Labour market outcomes for migrant professionals: Canada and Australia compared-executive summary. Report prepared for Citizenship and Immigration Canada, Ottawa.

Hirschman, D., Berrey, E. & Rose-Greenland, F. (2016). Dequantifying diversity: affirmative action and admissions at the University of Michigan. Theor Soc, 45, 265–301. DOI:

Larsen, JA. (2007). Embodiment of discrimination and overseas nurses’ career progression. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 16: 2187–95. DOI:

Mapedzahama, V., Rudge, T., Westa, S., Perron, A., (2012). Black nurse in white space? Rethinking the in/visibility of race within the Australian nursing workplace. Nursing Inquiry. 19(2): 153–164. DOI:

Paillé, P. (1994). L'analyse par théorisation ancrée. Cahiers de recherche sociologique, 23, 147-181. DOI:

Phillips, J.M., & Malone, B. (2014). Increasing Racial/Ethnic Diversity in Nursing to Reduce Health Disparities and Achieve Health Equity. Public Health Reports, 129(1_suppl2), 45–50. DOI:

Pickering, M. (2001). Stereotyping: the politics of representation. Palgrave. DOI:

Putnam, R.D. (2001). Bowling alone: The collapse and revival of American community. New York: Simon and Schuster. DOI:

Rosenberg, L., & O’Rourke, M. E. (2011). The diversity pyramid: An organizational model to structure diversity recruitment and retention in nursing programs. Journal of Nursing Education, 50(10), 555-560. DOI:

Schwalbe, M., Holden, D., Schrock, D., Godwin, S., Thompson, S., & Wolkomir, M. (2000). Generic processes in the reproduction of inequality: An interactionist analysis. Social forces, 79(2), 419-452. DOI:

Smith, L.T. (2012). Decolonizing methodologies: Research and indigenous peoples. London: Zed.

Statistics Canada, (2018). Census Profile, 2016 Census. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 98-316-X2016001. Released November 29, 2017. Ottawa, ON.

Tajfel, H., & Turner, J.C. (1986). The social identity theory of intergroup behavior. In S.

Worchel & W.G. Austin (Eds), Psychology of intergroup relations (pp.7-24). Chicago: Nelson-Hall.

Tang, S. Y., & Browne, A. (2008). ‘Race’ matters: Racialization and egalitarian discourses involving Aboriginal people in the Canadian health care context. Ethnicity & Health, 13, 109–127. DOI:

Thomas, B. (2014), Health and health care disparities: The effect of social and environmental factors on individual and population health, International Journal of Environmental Research Public Health 11, 7492–7507 DOI:

Villarruel, A., Washington, D., Lecher, WT., Carver, NA. (2015). A more diverse nursing workforce: Greater diversity is good for the country's health. American Journal of Nursing, 115(5):57–62. DOI:

Weis, L. (1995). Identity formation and the processes of "othering": unraveling sexual threads. Educational foundations 9(1), 17-33.

Wilson, E. (2014). Diversity, culture and the glass ceiling. Journal of Cultural Diversity, 21(3), 83-89.



How to Cite

Bouabdillah, N., Perron, A., & Holmes, D. (2021). Career Advancement: The Experiences of Minority Nurses in Accessing Leadership Positions in a Tertiary Care Setting. Witness: The Canadian Journal of Critical Nursing Discourse, 3(1), 73–84.