The roles of nurses became extra critical during the coronavirus pandemic. Nurses were at the frontline of patient care at a time when new infection cases were overwhelming hospitals. Nurses have been actively involved with the evaluation and monitoring of patients. The impact of COVID-19 on patients and healthcare systems was profoundly stressful. Nurses found themselves in unprecedented situations. According to the Scientific American, nurses have been working long hours frequently. They have been exposed to many hazards, including a high risk of infection. Despite this, nurses ensure that all patients receive quality care irrespective of their conditions. The Journal of Clinical Nursing said that during the pandemic nurses struggled with shortages of vital supplies including personal protective equipment. Yet they have worked hard and risen to every challenge.
The local availability of qualified nurses has been far short of demand in many countries. According to the WHO and the Migration Policy Institute, there is an existing shortage and unfair distribution of the health workforce. This is a driver of the international migration of health workers. Developed countries like the US and Italy have become dependent on international nurses to fill vital job positions. In Germany and Denmark more than 15% of the nurses are migrants. The US, UK, Australia, Canada, Saudi Arabia, Norway, Ireland, Switzerland, Italy, and many other countries depend on migrant nurses to keep their healthcare sectors functional. This trend will continue and expand in the coming decades.
An important incentive for foreign nurses is the earning opportunity. Migrant nurses in developed countries like Italy can earn up to EUR 3,500 monthly compared to EUR 539 in the Philippines. These expat professionals send home remittances via the Ria Money Transfer App and other channels to support their families. Other incentives are better working conditions, professional development, and growth opportunities.
Many Countries are facing a shortage of local nurses. They recognize the cost-effectiveness of hiring Filipinos and other expat nurses, rather than training nurses locally. According to The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) 10,000 additional healthcare workers left the country to work abroad in 2020. The Philippines is the largest exporter of nurses in the world. Saudi Arabia became the leading destination for Filipino nurses. Many European countries hired vast numbers of Filipino health workers. Neighboring countries like Singapore and Japan also began hiring Filipino nurses.
In the US about 150,000 nurses are Filipinos. According to Forbes the US healthcare system relies heavily on immigrants. They make up 17% of all healthcare workers. OFW nurses employed in the private sector in the US earn similar to migrant nurses in the EU. Many state healthcare systems also hire OFW nurses. According to the Saudi Gazette publication, one employer of OFW nurses is the Saudi Arabia Ministry of health. OFW nurses in the Middle East earn the equivalent of EUR 1,660 per month, tax-free. These nurses make the sacrifice of leaving their families to travel overseas for work.
Outlook for the future
COVID-19 is stressing global healthcare resources everywhere. The demand for migrant healthcare workers is rising. According to the WHO the number of nurses in all of Europe is not adequate to meet current and future needs. Before COVID-19 started, many countries were already facing a shortage of nurses. COVID-19 simply exposed these wide gaps in staffing.
Many developed countries are undergoing a significant demographic change. Nations like the US, Italy, and others are irrevocably ageing. Life expectancy is rising and birth rates keep declining. The proportion of seniors in the population is steadily on the rise. Seniors need more long-term care. The intensity and complexity of the needed nursing care will also increase.
Along with the rest of the population, nurses too are ageing. The Association of American Medical Colleges estimates a shortage of between 40,800 and 104,900 physicians by 2030. This is driven by decreasing working hours, retirement, and increasing demand. Health workforce Studies says that there will be bursts in registered nurse retirements. This could result in temporary nursing shortages and disruptions in care delivery. 1.7 million experienced nurses exited the workforce in 2015 due to retirement and similar causes. This was double the number in 2005. This trend will continue to accelerate. According to a report by the International Centre on Nurse Migration (ICNM) up to 4.7 million nurses worldwide are expecting to retire by 2030.
The Guardian reported that many medics including nurses in Italy have chosen to leave the profession or take early retirement after the trauma experienced during COVID-19. Despite working relentlessly nurses have become targets of aggression as some patients vent their anger at healthcare workers. Such issues add to nurse attrition. It is time to realize the true worth of nurses and other healthcare professions. We must acknowledge their roles and efforts with appropriate rewards and recognition.
About the author:
Hemant G is a contributing writer at Sparkwebs LLC, a Digital and Content Marketing Agency. When he’s not writing, he loves to travel, scuba dive, and watch documentaries.