IFGH 2012: Nurse Migration and Health Workforce Planning in the Irish Context

January 31, 2012

Authors:Humphries N., Brugha R., McGee H.

Author Affiliations:Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland

Option 1– Scientific / Empirical Research Findings Presented as – Oral Presentation


Ireland began actively recruiting nurses internationally in 2000 and is now the OECD country most heavily reliant upon international nurse recruitment. This paper reflects on a decade of international nurse recruitment in the Irish context.


The paper analyses secondary data from An Board Altranais and the Department of Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation. It also draws on a 2009 survey of non-EU migrant nurses (N=337) working in Ireland and interviews with key stakeholders (N= 12) in 2009/2010.


  • Non-EU migrant nurses accounted for 35% (N=14,546) of newly registered nurses 2000-2010 with 11,481 non-EU migrant nurses obtaining visas 2000-2009.
  • The numbers recruited internationally almost matched the numbers trained locally 2000 -2010 – 14,546 non-EU and EU nurses joined the Irish nursing workforce alongside 17,264 Irish-trained nurses.
  • A fresh challenge for nurse workforce planning is the slowing of immigration and a possible increase in emigration by non-EU nurses. Between 2008 and 2010, verification requests were processed on behalf of 4202 non-EU migrant nurses, equating to 29% of those recruited since 2000.
  • Our 2009 survey of non-EU migrant nurses asked about future plans; 19% (65) of respondents intended to stay in Ireland, 49% (166) intended to return home and 23% (79) planned to migrate another country.

Discussion/conclusions/ implications:

International nurse recruitment became a major contributor to the nursing workforce by default – ‘I believe the State doesn’t really know . . . before they hire us they don’t have a plan or policy in place’ (Migrant Nurse Survey 260). Successful international nurse recruitment campaigns obviated the need for health workforce planning in the short-term, but did not solve the nursing shortage. The current assumption that nurse migration (emigration and immigration) will always work for Ireland over-plays the reliability of international recruitment as a health workforce planning tool.



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