Among the myriad reasons, nurses often migrate to seek a better quality of life than they enjoy in their own countries and, as such, these countries, including Jamaica, need to embark on strategies to address the drivers of nurses’ mass migration. Despite policy arrangements to stem recruitment of nurses from developing states, developed countries will continue to recruit nurses and midwives from countries such as ours.
By and large, recruitment of nurses from developing states is enhanced by the stark realisation that unmet demand for nurses will triple over the next few years, moving from 3,300 nurses in 2006 to approximately 10,700 nurses in 2025. A point to note is that, in Jamaica, we have a shortage of approximately 1,000 nurses.
In a Jamaica Observer article published January 15, 2017, ‘No quick fix for the nursing brain drain’, I articulated that “Migration of nurses to the private sector and overseas will be with us for some time...” Further, I implored “policymakers to be creative and engage recruiters of Jamaican nurses in a more strategic and sound manner”.
Additionally, I proposed that “recruiters be made to contribute to the training of Jamaican nurses by providing both financial support to training institutions and practice settings, while boosting a resource-constrained public health system.” In conclusion, I alluded to the fact that “defined strategies to train and retain Jamaican nurses to effectively manage the needs of the industry must be established”. The intention was to encourage Jamaica, and the region by extension, to effectively manage the migration of nurses.
Two years later, in the Jamaica Observer article of February 11, 2019, titled ‘Managed migration strategy needed to mitigate effects of nursing brain drain’, I opined that managed migration strategy was required to mitigate the nursing brain drain in Jamaica. This article was prompted by a call from the then chairman of the regional nursing body for urgent attention to be given to the migration of nurses and midwives from the Caribbean, especially in light of the fact that a large number of specialist nurses had been leaving our shores.
Five years later and my position remains unchanged.
I endorse the call for action to stem the mass migration of the region’s nurses. My position on the matter is influenced by the fact that increased loss of professional and specialist nurses from the region to more affluent and developed countries has significant negative social and economic impact on member states. At the same time, however, it is my opinion that the region needs to adopt policies which leverage the recruiters, as well as establish a code of practice for those who poach the region’s nursing professionals.
Concerted effort is required to tackle the issues associated with the nurse labour market in the region. This will ensure that adequate resources are available for training as well as strategies for retention.
A regional approach is needed to manage the migration of nursing professionals. The approach should include engaging financial and technical support from international recruiters, such as those from USA, United Kingdom and Canada. The result may well be a case in which we can train nurses for export, but we will better manage the domino effects of mass migration of the region’s nurses.
Action needed now! Time is of the essence.
Adella Campbell, PhD, is an associate professor and dean of the College of Health Sciences, University of Technology, Jamaica.