A qualitative study of the factors influencing the global migration of anatomical pathologists in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

  • N Cassim
  • S Ruggunan


Background: The aim of the present study was to identify the factors that influence the global migration of South African anatomical pathologists working in the province of KwaZulu-Natal.
Objective: The present study answered the question ‘what factors influence Kwazulu-Natalbased histopathologists to emigrate out of South Africa?’, thus providing insight into an under-researched medical specialisation.
Methods: A qualitative approach and purposive sampling were used. Data included 11 in-depth interviews with histopathologists working in  KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), and one interview with a former KZN-based  histopathologist now working in the United States. The interviews were recorded and transcribed. The data were coded for patterns, and these patterns generated themes. The processes of coding and thematic  generation were iterative.
Results: Six themes were discovered from the data. Of these, five themes suggested reasons for the potential emigration of histopathologists. These included: lack of recognition by clinical doctors, lack of career-pathing opportunities, the deterrent of compulsory service in the public sector upon qualifying, socio-economic and political instability in South Africa, and endemic levels of crime. A sixth theme revealed that remuneration was not a deciding factor as to whether histopathologists choose to emigrate.
Conclusions: Remuneration was not revealed to be a reason for  emigration, as these specialists’ salaries are commensurate with global salaries. The findings, whilst not generalisable, suggest that more work needs to be done on the human relations aspects of retention for these medical specialists. This has implications for human resources for health policy.

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 2071-9736
print ISSN: 1025-9848