Migration matters : the experience of United Kingdom registered nurses migrating to Western Australia

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Nursing and Midwifery


Health, Engineering and Science

First Advisor

Dr Joyce Hendricks

Second Advisor

Dr Judith Pugh


This qualitative study uses heuristic inquiry to investigate the unique journey of 21 registered nurses (RN) who migrated from the United Kingdom (UK) to Perth in Western Australia (WA) between 2003 and 2008. The study explores the reasons for migration as well as the professional, social and psychological impact on each participant and their accompanying family during the first two years of settling in a new country.

In the contemporary climate of international nurse mobility, many employers are attempting to attract new employees, often with tantalising offers of an immediate visa and the enticement of a better climate and standard of living. Migration is costly financially and socially, with many nurses finding that the dream does not live up to the reality.

The purpose of this study is to search for the essence of the phenomenon of migration for RNs from the UK moving to WA, including the psychological and sociocultural adaptation experienced by the participants. With the focus being to capture the experience of UK migrant nurses in WA, heuristic inquiry was chosen as the research methodology, offering the researcher an opportunity to be included in the study due to personal experience as an RN migrating to WA in 2003.

The professional and personal challenges faced by the participants are examined in detail and offer an insight into the complicated and often frustrating process faced by UK nurses when migrating to WA. Three main themes were uncovered during the heuristic process: (a) making the move: finding a way; (b) new life: fitting in; and (c) here to stay. Heuristic inquiry encouraged the development of a creative synthesis to represent the whole experience and resulted in my distinctive representation, Nurse migration: A model for success. This model is underpinned by the theoretical framework used to support the research, the work of Kingma who identified the main push and pull factors affecting the decision of nurses to migrate.

Three main coping strategies identified in this study were: (a) developing resilience; (b) finding a new professional identity; and (c) having the ability to adapt to a new life. Feelings of belonging were found to be necessary to make the move a success, with the need for new friends and a replacement family being a high priority for all participants. This study also highlighted many issues that need to be considered by future UK migrant nurses before embarking on such a massive upheaval to their professional and personal life. Policy makers and Australian employers must consider the total impact of migration upon the nurses they employ and investigate how they can improve conditions that may allow them to “live the dream” both professionally and personally.

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