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Nurse Migration: Major Causative Factors and Effects


Migration has been part of humanity throughout world history. In the current world, professional migration is a common phenomenon, which is influenced by many factors. This paper discusses migration in the nursing profession, which is a global phenomenon that has been on an increasing trend in the last decade.

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It is worth noting that global nurse migration is associated with nursing shortages (Jacobson, 2015). While developing countries experience shortages because of nursing migration, developed economies strive to deal with registered nurses shortages by employing immigrant nurses.

Reasons for nurse migrations

According to research, nurse migration is influenced by varied factors (Dywili, Bonner, & O’Brien, 2013). Therefore, it is apparent that the global shortage is not the only factor. Migration in nursing, like in most professions, is highly influenced by the status of both home and recipient countries. In most cases, conditions in recipient economies are better than circumstances at home countries. As such, there are factors that make nurses migrate from their home countries.

First, there are higher prospects of securing nursing jobs in developed countries relative to developing economies. Although there are high demands for healthcare and nursing services in developing countries, funds allocated to healthcare are oftentimes insufficient. Consequently, nurses find it difficult to get employment.

Second, nurses working in developed countries have higher chances and opportunities for career growth than those working in developing economies. As such, nurses work in better environments that facilitate career growth. Additionally, developed economies are more likely to have professional working environments where nursing expertise is recognized and given the pertinent attention.

Third, nurses would wish to work in countries that have socio-political stability. Most developing and emerging countries have unstable socio-political environments that push nurses out to stable countries.

Fourth, it is a common goal among many professions to work under the best terms. Nurses, therefore, would wish to work under attractive terms such as social and retirement benefits, attractive salaries, and good employment policies.

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It is worth noting that personal factors are key determinants of nurse migration. For instance, nurses do migrate from a developed country to another developed country. As such, economic and welfare factors do not predominantly feature in such migrations (Dywili, Bonner, & O’Brien, 2013).

Effects of nurse migration

Global nurse migration has highly felt impacts in many countries. Although nurse movement is oftentimes driven by personal ambitions and goals, positive/negative effects are felt at nationwide levels (Li, Nie, & Li, 2014).

Impacts on immigrants

Movements from home countries influence healthcare givers in negative and positive ways. First, in the positive aspects, a migrating nurse is likely to have financial benefits. As mentioned earlier, financial benefits are key push and pull factors that influence nurse migration. Most nurses get poor remunerations, especially in developing economies where healthcare resource allocations are strained (Dywili, Bonner, & O’Brien, 2013). On the other hand, migrant nurses are likely to improve their earnings ten to twenty times in the new working environments (Li, Nie, & Li, 2014).

Second, immigrant nurses are likely to experience career growth in new working environments. Developed countries have more avenues of career development. Additionally, an immigrant nurse is more likely to be working under better terms and benefits

Nonetheless, immigrant nurses are likely to encounter unfavorable experiences while working in foreign countries. First, many immigrant nurses experience difficulties in adapting to new working environments. It is a great challenge to work in foreign countries, especially due to lack of support network from family and friends. Additionally, studies have revealed that many immigrant nurses are compelled to learn new languages and learn to adapt new cultures (Li, Nie, & Li, 2014).

Second, immigrant nurses oftentimes have trouble making social and professional interactions, especially at workplaces. It is worth noting that good social and professional relationships are prerequisites to quality nurse stay and, consequently, good healthcare outcomes. In a study, a number of immigrant nurses felt isolated and suffered psychological distresses (Li, Nie, & Li, 2014). This could be attributed to geographical separations from their families and loved ones.

Third, nurses working in foreign countries are oftentimes discriminated against, which is a critical ethical issue. In many countries, policies on equality are poorly implemented leaving immigrants in situations where they do not get equal opportunities. Additionally, race and nationality are common bases of discrimination faced by immigrant nurses.

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Discrimination is evident and plays substantial roles in management. In a study, researchers established that race and nationality inform remuneration and benefit decisions in many healthcare facilities managements (Li, Nie, & Li, 2014). Immigrant nurses working under the same terms with local nurses were remunerated differently and had fewer benefits. In some instances, patients refused to be treated by nurses from certain races or nationalities (Li, Nie, & Li, 2014).

Nurses born in developed countries oftentimes receive better remunerations than immigrants from poor countries do, for instance nurses from the Philippines receive less pay. To some immigrant nurses, discrimination is a nonissue. However, a majority of immigrant nurses consider discrimination as a grave violation of human rights (Walani, 2015).

Further, newly contracted immigrants are subjected to unprofessional and unsafe labor practices. For instance, new nurses are restricted to low entry levels regardless their qualification and experience in the nursing practice. Discrimination and lack of equality hinder further training and career development.

Effects of nurse migration in the source country

Immigrant nurses cause both positive and negative effects to their home countries. First, immigrant nurses send remittances that provide considerable financial boosts to source countries. However, studies have shown that few of these remittances are allocated to healthcare in the source countries.

Moreover, immigrant nurses can facilitate transnational professional and social partnerships. As such, exchange of ideas and skills is facilitated by nurse immigration. Source countries, oftentimes the developing countries, benefit from these transnational connections.

Nurse immigration increases nurse shortages in source countries. As seen earlier, many nurses migrate from struggling economies, which have limited allocations to healthcare. According to research, developing countries suffer more than 25% of global diseases. As such, developing countries have high demands for nurses. Nurse migrating from developing countries, therefore, create more shortages making healthcare systems less efficient.

Nurse immigrations result in source countries losing potential returns to educational investments. Most developing countries struggle in educating and training nurses. As such, losing nurses to migration has economic implications for the source countries. The subsidies that poor governments give to the training of nurses end up benefiting recipient countries. For instance, the Philippines government subsidizes nurse training with an aim of reducing local nurse shortages. However, recipient countries benefit more than the Philippines since more than 70% of the nurses work abroad.

Effects of migration in the recipient country

Although nurse migration is oftentimes instigated by personal decisions, the effects are felt by recipient countries. The effects of nurse immigrants have both positive and negative effects on the recipient countries.

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Nurse immigration is vital in aiding the undertakings aimed at reducing nurse shortages in the recipient countries, which in most cases are developed countries. Additionally, most healthcare facilities in recipient countries are able to meet diversity requirements and multicultural workforces. It is imperative to note that multicultural employees are more effective, especially in treating patients from diverse cultures.

Nonetheless, immigrant nurses cause major concerns in the recipient countries. For instance, many recipient countries are worried about different levels of nurse training and requirement and their implications to healthcare outcomes.

Nurses educated and trained in foreign institutions may have different levels of training and qualifications. In addition, their language abilities could have adverse effects on healthcare delivery (Diamond, Tuot, & Karliner, 2012).

Furthermore, language and extreme cultural diversity may be retrogressive and have negative effects on nursing teams. It is worth noting that teamwork is a prerequisite for augmented healthcare outcomes. However, diverse cultures may be a cause for strain in nurse relationships. This can be experienced, especially where immigrant nurses are not treated equally with local nurses. Additionally, research has revealed that immigrant nurses take time to adapt to new working environments. As such, a lot of time is wasted in nurse teams’ efforts to embrace diverse cultures.

Recipient countries oftentimes get economic gains from nurse immigration. For instance, immigrant nurses are required to spend on additional training. In Australia, for example, immigrant nurses pay annual fees amounting to $20,000 for additional pre-registration courses. Additionally, nurses living abroad make payments for the basic living costs to the receiving countries.

Recipient countries are faced with ethical dilemmas and criticisms pertaining recruiting workforce from developing countries with acute nursing shortages. Most source countries have unstable healthcare systems characterized with severe resource and nursing shortages. Additionally, most of them forego some opportunities to investing in nurse training only to be denied the returns. The recipient countries are therefore faced with the moral dilemma of whether to recruit from developing countries to ease their own shortages, or allow developing countries stabilize their healthcare systems (Yeates, 2010).

Finally, nurse immigration only offers short-term solutions to nursing shortages in recipient countries’ healthcare systems. The global supply of nurses is volatile and, therefore, nurse migration can only offer short-term solutions to recipient countries. A number of socio-political and economic issues influence nurse supply. For instance, the US is a major recipient of nurse immigrants yet more shortages are expected in the future. According to a study, the drop in unemployment will result in nurses retiring or engaging in part-time jobs and consequently more shortages will be experienced. Additionally, government policies on health care, like the US Affordable Care Act of 2010 will have more impacts that are likely to perpetuate the US nurse shortages (Pittman, 2013 ).


Nursing migration is a global phenomenon that has impacts on nurse shortages. Immigration has caused global healthcare issues for a considerable time and the problems are likely to be prolonged.

This paper has discussed nurse migration giving the major causative factors and effects of nurse migration. The effects discussed pertains immigrants, source countries and recipient countries. It is evident that all the stakeholders are affected both positively and negatively. Source countries are hit more by nurse migration than recipient countries. However, all stakeholders should be actively involved in addressing nurse migration in order to stabilize healthcare systems.


Diamond, L. C., Tuot, D. S., & Karliner, L. S. (2012). The Use of Spanish Language Skills by Physicians and Nurses: Policy Implications for Teaching and Testing. Journal General Internal Medicine, 27(1), 117-123. Web.

Dywili, S., Bonner, A., & O’Brien, L. (2013). Why do Nurses Migrate? – a review of recent literature. Journal of Nursing Management, 21(3), 511-520. Web.

Jacobson, J. (2015). The Complexities of Nurse Migration. American Journal of Nursing, 115(12), 22-23.

Li, H., Nie, W., & Li, J. (2014). The Benefits and Caveats of International Nurse Migration. International Journal of Nursing Sciences, 1(3), 314-317. Web.

Pittman, P. (2013 ). Nursing Workforce Education, Migration and the Quality of Health care: a global challenge. International Journal for Quality in Health Care, 25(4), 349-351. Web.

Walani, S. R. (2015). Global Migration of Internationally Educated Nurses: Experiences of employment discrimination. International Journal of African Nursing Sciences, 65–70. Web.

Yeates, N. (2010). The globalization of nurse migration: Policy issues and responses. International Labour Review, 149(4), 423-439.

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