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Global Nursing: Shortage or Oversupply?

Updated on May 11, 2009

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.

Do you think there is a nursing shortage in your country?

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    • profile image

      jonathan 4 years ago

      when are we going to talk about dialogue issues in the operating room based on verbal instructions and differences in languages.

    • profile image

      advocateformom 5 years ago

      Please don't come to America to work in this trade if you do not have an excellent grasp of American English, both speaking and thinking in it. Too many (most?) of you don't. You will also need the ability to engage in conversation in American English. It seems when you can't you walk out of the room and ignore the resident--I guess you don't know what else to do. This is absolutely abhorrent. I have a mother in a nursing home in San Diego, California. There is a constant feeling here among the clearer thinking residents (like my mother) and their advocates (e.g., relatives who look after their care, however few that they may be) that the Filipino nurses are unwilling to speak and explain things to residents who still have some reasoning ability. The staff assumes that everyone is "round the bend" so to speak, and therefore not worth the time of cogent explanations regarding procedures. In light of the fact that help and care are so inconsistently given at this facility (federal government rated only 3 stars), I had brought in some cranberry tablets for my mother who has a UTI. The nurse took them and would not offer a coherent answer when my mother asked why (mother is partially deaf and has trouble with mumblers and accents). My mother protested and demanded to know why. The Filipino nurse walked out and closed the door on her because she didn't feel up to giving a response, I guess. This left my mother in a stifling hot room with no ventilation. She called me, in tears, and I came down at 8PM. In the mean time a kindly (non-Filipino) male CNA opened her door. I got there and the nurse came in and she wouldn't even face my mother. She (the nurse) just rambled about something and said that they couldn't have any tablets at bedside. When I asked why, since it was not a drug, she mumbled something else and left. She had no desire to engage a college graduate, obviously better educated than she, in any sort of dialogue. Please save us from this nightmare. I have had dealing with quite a few Filipinos in my youth here. They always struck me as being rather bipolar in mood, sometimes happy enough to sing, other times rather sullen and unwilling to engage in any sort of dialogue. Yes, I understand that low pay is an issue. There is much concern over abuses in privately-run nursing homes. The owner of this company made record profits recently and cut staffing the following year. He was called to account for this by a local watchdog journal and refused to be interviewed. So I guess your point will be that one gets what one pays for. I tell friends that it's a virtual third-world country in terms of inconsistency, pettiness, and lack of efficiency.

    • profile image

      RNAmerica 6 years ago

      Pinoy parents and students, this is a RED ALERT. Don't send your children to nursing school. They cannot come here as there is no hiring or demand. It's over. Do you all understand? You'll be wasting your money and your children's future. Trust me. The fad is long over and you are all too late. Stay there and do something else like ridding your government of corruption.

    • profile image

      Last RN 6 years ago

      There's an oversupply over there in the PH.

    • profile image

      Sparrow 6 years ago

      There is STILL NO NURSING SHORTAGE IN THE USA. There is definitely a nursing JOB shortage. Allowing non citizens to work for less just takes the food off of my table. My loans are DUE and feds will take it any way they can. Not only have I applied for hundreds of entry level positions I've landed NOTHING as is the same with most of my graduating class.

      People don't even believe me that I can't find a job as an RN. I mean, look at all the ads out there. RIDICULOUS. IT'S ALL ABOUT MISINFORMATION. Hmm Discover Nursing, go into debt, have the government come in and want their loans repaid. It's one field you can't give yourself a job and my guess is, I'm not rich enough to get a bailout. They are flooding the market to reduce the wages and that's how they are going to make healthcare more affordable; On the backs of the workers. It's incredibly demoralizing!!

    • profile image

      Bonannno 7 years ago

      THERE IS NO NURSING SHORTAGE IN THE UNITED STATES... NONE! There IS, though, a shortage of EXPERIENCED nurses, willing to ONLY work part-time/per-diem, varying schedules, understaffed, ect.

      It started in California with the Nurse/Patient Ratio Act. Hospital Administration quickly learned that nurses from all over the world were willing to come to work in California due to this! Full time positions are quickly becoming a thing of the past. New graduates and re-entry nurses can't get jobs... why hire them when there are currently experienced nurses in EVERY specialty fighting for each and every job?

      Administration keeps us hungry for work by only offering part-time, per-diem, on-call positions (for the most part); many nurses taking just about any shift to make ends meet.

      I feel sorry for those who are in nursing training/schools now, especially those expensive "trade school" like or "accelerated programs." They will graduate with a HEAFTY debt and poor prospects of a job... at least for the next several years.

    • profile image

      Lennard 7 years ago

      Philipino Trained nurses are academically "Worse than Terrible" in most aspects of there nursing practices.

      Funny thing though this situation is niether reported nor highlighted by any one.

      But the thing is these "Philipinoe Factory made Nurses"(Nurses who are prodused like goods from a production line) at the end tarnish the whole image and the reputaion of "All of the 3rd world Country's Educated Nurses all together."

    • profile image

      Ted 7 years ago

      There is no shortage in the US, either. Thousands of new grads are learning this the hard way. Even BSN grads are finding it tough to get hired, because the turnover rate is lower now due to the economy. So there are fewer openings, yet the nursing school admission reps (sales people) won't tell new students about the difficulty they will have in obtaining a job. The students are left with a mountain of debt and either having to go into a different field in the end (I had to go into health care management) or volunteer (work for free) for a year to gain experience before hospitals will consider you. If I had known the facts when I enrolled in school, I would have chose a different major and saved myself thousands.

    • Melody Lagrimas profile image

      Melody Lagrimas 8 years ago from Philippines

      Hi anonymous,

      Thanks for dropping by and for your inputs. Maybe the lure of working abroad still works today kaya marami pa rin nagni-nursing.

      Hi Mae,

      Thanks for your comment. Maybe you could try "Expansion of Public Hospitals' Nursing Services to Accommodate Oversupply of Nurses in the Country."

    • profile image

      mae 8 years ago

      hey can you please help me? i have a requirement in my history subject. i have to make a law, and have to pass the title of the law soon. i am thinking that maybe i can make a law regarding this topic can you please help me to do the title?

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      i am so agree with you.. there is no nursing shortage in the philippines. that's why i don't understand why there are still lots of you who are taking up BSN. look, andaming mga nursing graduates na sa call center lang ang bgsak nila.ang mga iba naman after mkapasa ng board exams sa ibang bansa na ang tuloy nila.

    • Melody Lagrimas profile image

      Melody Lagrimas 8 years ago from Philippines

      I guess you're right, regality. Thanks for dropping by.

    • regality profile image

      regality 8 years ago from Iloilo City, Philippines

      It's hard to get employment if you are a nursing graduate. Unless you do 6 months of voluntary work first, it's really hard to get a job in hospitals. So most nurses are absorbed by call centers.

    • Melody Lagrimas profile image

      Melody Lagrimas 8 years ago from Philippines

      Hi nice1,

      That would be great, thanks a lot too.

    • profile image

      nice1 8 years ago

      its actually for my thesis.. i'm currently writing my paper right.. i find some of your ideas very interesting and very close to the study that im making... well thank you for allowing me.. don't worry i will include you're name in my bibliography thanks again..

    • Melody Lagrimas profile image

      Melody Lagrimas 9 years ago from Philippines

      Hi nice1, thanks for your comment. Yes, you may, but may I know what type of paper is it and how you intend to use this article?

    • profile image

      nice1 9 years ago

      superb! your insights are really true.. can i use your article for my paper?

    • Melody Lagrimas profile image

      Melody Lagrimas 9 years ago from Philippines

      Thanks for commenting, Kiran, I sincerely appreciate it.

    • kiran8 profile image

      kiran8 9 years ago from Mangalore, India

      Excellent insight ....Great article :)

    • Melody Lagrimas profile image

      Melody Lagrimas 9 years ago from Philippines

      Peggy, i guess lack of nursing instructors is true in many countries with nursing shortage; and the law of demand and supply needs to be maximally observed to balance the global nursing field.

      Thanks a lot for your comment.

      Raj, my sincerest apprecitaion for your continued support. I have read that India is one of the countries providing nurses in many countries too.

    • Raj kamal profile image

      Raj kamal 9 years ago from Guntur, A.P., India

      Great hub, I am very much attracted and addicted to your style of writing. In India also nursing career is considered a good option due to the overseas opportunities.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 9 years ago from Houston, Texas

      The main problem in the U.S. is a lack of nursing instructors which limits the amount of nursing students allowed into new programs.

      It would seem that supply and demand could be worked out more equitably between countries for the betterment of everyone concerned.

    • Melody Lagrimas profile image

      Melody Lagrimas 9 years ago from Philippines

      Hi Rochelle, thank you for your comment.

      I guess the main reason why there are so many nursing schools in my country is that a lot of students want to take up nursing because of the attraction of working overseas and earning more. That's the reason why I took up nursing too even though I already earned a degree in zoology.

    • Rochelle Frank profile image

      Rochelle Frank 9 years ago from California Gold Country

      You have presented a very good explanation of the worldwide nursing situation which seems to be entirely true. The US does have a shortage, but ever since I can remember it seems that a large percentage of them are from your country. I have always wondered why there are so many nursing schools in the Philippines.