Academic journal article Contemporary Nurse : a Journal for the Australian Nursing Profession

Nurses on the Move: Diversity and the Work Environment

Academic journal article Contemporary Nurse : a Journal for the Australian Nursing Profession

Nurses on the Move: Diversity and the Work Environment

Article excerpt


According to the International Organization for Migration, women migrants have become agents of economic change as they enter the international labour market and participate in a new distribution of global wealth (IOM 2003). This article looks at current nurse migration flows, the impact migration has on nurses and the value of positive practice environments for the full integration of international nurses.The following scenarios reflects on some of the experiences of migrating nurses with implications for nurse shortages.

I feel safe. I am happy here and can now plan my life.

Fatima Ansari,*1 born in the Middle East and a member of an ethnic minority, dreamed of being a nurse. Making the wish a reality was a continuing challenge and in spite of the powerful social pressures, Ansari persevered and received her diploma with the promise of a wonderful future. However, victimised daily by the harmful and discriminatory practices of her colleagues and employers, she was offered only sporadic temporary work contracts and earned very little money. Given no hope of a better life in her home country, Ansari finally decided to join her sister and brother in Sweden. Recalling her years in Sweden, Ansari insists they have been positive. 'I have been treated well - better than in my home country.The decision to move was mine and I would do it again' (Kingma 2006: 1).

Vicki Bigambo* also faced serious professional and personal problems in her home country of Tanzania. Proposed a job in a Glasgow nursing home, she signed the contract that was to offer her a new life in the United Kingdom. Upon arrival, the recruitment agency took her passport and attempted to force her into signing a new contract for a lower salary, longer hours and a new location far from the city. Bigambo was warned that if she spoke to anyone about her situation she would be deported (Kingma 2006).

Fatima Ansari and Vicki Bigambo are part of the growing phenomenon of global mobility. Today, over 191 million people live in countries other than where they were born. This population has doubled since 1970, with women now accounting for almost half, many migrating without their families and alone (IOM 2005; Timur 2000; UN 2006). The migrant population has been transformed and is changing the very nature of society in both source and destination countries.


Nursing has always been a mobile profession. Thousands of nurses every year migrate in search of better pay and working conditions, career mobility, professional development, a better quality of life, personal safety, or sometimes just novelty and adventure (Kingma 2006). Already in the 1970s, more Filipino nurses were registered in the United States and Canada than in the Philippines (Martineau, Decker & Bundred 2002). Today, however, a wider range of supplier countries is satisfying the growing labour needs of an increasing number of destination countries, developing as well as industrialised. For example, the number of countries sending international nurse recruits to the United Kingdom is known to have increased from seventy-one in 1990 to ninety-five in 2001 (Buchan & Sochalski 2004). Factors facilitating the flow between source and destination countries include long-standing trade and economic ties, a history of colonial relationships, the existence of established transnational communities or diaspora (see the case of Fatima Ansari) as well as a shared culture, religion or language. Traditional flows in South-North migration are, however, subject to change over time. For example, the Philippines, once the leading source of nurse migrants to Ireland and the United Kingdom, was outranked by India in 2005 (Kingma 2007).

The percentage of foreign-educated physicians working in Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom (UK) and the United States (US) is currently reported to be between 21% and 33%, while foreign-educated nurses represent 5-10% of these countries' nurse workforce. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.