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Global shortage leads to exodus of experienced nurses from Philippines

May 15, 2003 -- Today the Inter Press Service News Agency ran a substantial piece by Patricia Adversario, "Nurses' Exodus Making Health System Sick," about the departure of many of the Philippines' most experienced nurses for jobs in wealthier nations which are struggling with the global nursing shortage, such as Britain, Ireland, the United States and Saudi Arabia. The article paints a distressing picture of the future of health care in the Philippines. Many nurses leave when they get enough experience to work in nations with better financial and professional opportunities, the annual flow of nurses out of the country is reportedly several times greater than the number who are produced annually, and the nurse-to-patient ratios even in government-funded settings reportedly already range from 1-to-30 to 1-to-60. The article notes that more and more developed nations are opening their borders to nursing immigration in response to the shortage, including Austria, Norway and Japan.

Toward the end, the piece describes the unusual phenomenon of Filipino physicians studying to become nurses overseas as a "reverse human resource development." Although it is not clear if this phrase originates with the reporter or the Johns Hopkins Health System recruiter she is interviewing, what does seem clear is that to regard a medicine-to-nursing career shift as a reversal is to view it as a step backwards. We understand the irony of people in a profession with more power and status choosing to pursue nursing as a means to economic and professional advancement overseas. But to describe this as a "reversal" is to endorse the outmoded social structures that have helped create the nursing shortage that now threatens world health.

See Patricia Adversario's article "Nurses' Exodus Making Health System Sick" in the Inter Press.

Also see Joseph Berger's November 24, 2003 article "From Philippines, With Scrubs" in the New York Times.

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