Original Research

Gendered health care labour markets? A case study of anatomical pathologists and haematologists in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Suveera Singh, Shaun Ruggunan
The Journal for Transdisciplinary Research in Southern Africa | Vol 12, No 1 | a334 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/td.v12i1.334 | © 2016 Suveera Singh, Shaun Ruggunan | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 13 March 2016 | Published: 03 December 2016

About the author(s)

Suveera Singh, Department of Human Resources Management, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
Shaun Ruggunan, Department of Human Resources Management, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa


This study qualitatively explored the role of gender and related factors that influence medical doctors’ decisions in selecting a specialisation within medical laboratory medicine. This study is novel in that it disaggregates doctors by specialisation. It further focuses on non-clinical medical specialists who have been ignored in the global human resources for health literature. Hakim’s preference theory as well as socialisation theory is adapted to explain some of the reasons female doctors make certain career choices regarding specialisation within the medical field. The study focused on laboratory doctors in the public and private sector in KwaZulu- Natal. A qualitative approach was adopted given the small population size and the need for an interpretive approach to the data. The research design was an exploratory case study and thematic analysis was used to discover the relevant themes. The non-probability purposeful sample comprised a total of 20 participants, of which 11 were anatomical pathologists and 9 were haematologists, all based in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Data collection was performed via in-depth interviews. Trustworthiness of the data was ensured through methods of credibility and triangulation. The key finding is that although gender is a significant factor in career choice (for specific disciplines), it is one of many factors that determine self-selection into a specific medical laboratory specialisation. The conclusions, although not generalisable, have implications for human resources for health policies targeted at achieving higher levels of recruitment in laboratory medicine as a profession.


anatomical pathologist; haematologist; pathology; laboratory medicine; gender; preference theory; socialisation


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