Global Nursing: Shortage or Oversupply?
Many people would say that there is a global nursing shortage today. But is that really true? No, I believe it’s not. What I believe is that nursing is quite an unbalanced field. Why? It is because whereas many countries experience great deficits in their nursing services, others have more than what they need.
The nursing shortage is particularly experienced in the United States, Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, and other European countries. Even Saudi Arabia, Dubai and other Middle East countries have always been in need of thousands of nurses every year too. So when you cast your look at these countries, you could certainly say that there is indeed a global shortage of nurses.
However, if you look at other countries, particularly the Philippines and India, you could see that the nursing field shows an entirely different scenario.
Nursing in the Philippines
In the Philippines, thousands of nurses are produced by the country’s numerous nursing schools every year. The most recent licensure examination yielded around 39,000 new Registered Nurses.
But is the country able to provide all these nurses with good employment? The answer is no. There are no enough hospitals and medical facilities in the Philippines that can accommodate this annual flood of nurses. And even if there are, the meager salaries given for nursing services deter a lot of nurses from seeking domestic employment.
So why do many Filipinos continue to take up nursing even if there are no satisfactory employment opportunities awaiting them after passing the board examination? Obviously because of the attraction of working in countries where nurses are highly in demand – earning more in the process.
Every year, the Philippines has been sending thousands of nurses to different parts of the world, particularly the U.S., the United Kingdom, the Middle East, Australia, Canada and even New Zealand. And because of the nursing shortage present in these countries, they continue to hire foreign nurses, providing better employment benefits and higher salaries.
However, even though nursing agencies abound in the Philippines these days, many Filipino nurses find it hard to get overseas employment because of lack of hospital or clinical experience. That’s where the irony lies – overseas employers generally look for nurses with hospital nursing experience, but lots of Filipino nurses don’t have that, as hospital employment is simply too hard to get in the country. This scenario leads many Filipino nurses to apply for voluntary work at hospitals accepting nursing volunteers, just to gain experience. But still, some overseas employers do not count voluntary nursing as hospital experience, so where does that leave unemployed Filipino nurses? That leaves them looking for employment in non-hospital settings, or even entirely out of the nursing field, just to earn a living, and foregoing their dream of working abroad.
This is the dilemma faced by many Filipino nurses today. Some would prefer to work as volunteers just to gain the necessary hospital experience. Still, others have to look for paying jobs even if these are outside of their field just to have a regular income.
Ways to Balance the Global Nursing Field
In view of the apparently uneven global distribution of nurses, measures need to be taken to create an optimal balance in this essential healthcare niche. The following steps can be taken by various countries depending on their nursing needs and nursing resources.
Countries with nursing shortage
To ensure sufficient nursing resources for countries experiencing shortage of nurses, these countries should:
- Encourage students to go to nursing school;
- Offer scholarships and grants to students who want to become nurses, but do not have the financial means to do so;
- Encourage nurses to teach (even on a part-time basis) by providing attractive incentives, to address the shortage of nursing school teachers;
- Provide attractive employment benefits and compensation schemes to attract non-practicing nurses back to the field; and
- Hire qualified foreign nurses to fill the great void in their nursing industry.
Countries with Oversupply of Nurses
To maximize the benefits brought by their oversupply of nurses, these countries should:
- Apply strict regulations of nursing schools to ensure quality nursing education;
- Ensure high standard licensure examination to help screen future nurses;
- Empower government hospitals and medical institutions to be able to employ sufficient number of nurses;
- Encourage private hospitals and medical facilities to hire nurses even without experience;
- Urge both government and private hospitals and medical centers to offer nurses with trainings and specialization programs in exchange for voluntary nursing services; and
- Provide assistance and support to nurses who want to work abroad by ensuring that their rights and interests as foreign nurses are adequately protected.
The bottom line is that the global nursing field is characterized by uneven distribution, thus shortage is experienced in many first world countries, while oversupply is notably seen in some underprivileged ones. A balance can be created in the global nursing field if all essential factors pertaining to the nursing industry are carefully considered and sufficiently addressed by every country.
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