Migrating nurses leaving mentorship gap for newcomers

The original article can be found on: Barbados Advocate

WHILE the large number of nurses leaving the region is of concern, the kind of positions that are left vacant in their respective territories is a greater worry.

So says Caribbean Programme Co-ordinator of PAHO/WHO, Dr. Ernest Pate, who was drawing reference to a 2010-2011 World Bank report which assessed nursing in several countries in the region.

According to Dr. Pate, “What struck me as being very important is when we have our nurses migrating from this region, it is not the ones who are now coming out of school, it is the middle order, the middle level nurses who are the ones having the experience, the ones who are going to supervise and mentor the younger folks, it is those individuals who they attract to the more developed countries.

“And that is in fact debilitating our services because we have then left the young graduates coming out without that mentorship and supervision. In the Caribbean, I would say to you most of the lost of nurses that we are seeing is occurring out of the Caribbean region. In fact, there are more nurses outside from the Caribbean than we have in the Caribbean and that is fact,” he stated.

Dr. Pate stated that there is a global nursing deficit of approximately 2.4 million.

“We have 16 000 medical schools globally. We have a little more in terms of nursing schools, but we are not producing enough of the individuals. In actual fact that gap is widening. We are having a bigger deficit in the inequities in terms of what is paid in salary, we are having greater shortages and we are having an imbalance in those things. But with the inequities that we are seeing in salary and the difference in working conditions, we are seeing many of our people migrating.”

He made the observation that answers vary when nurses whom have opted to migrate are asked their reason for leaving.

“In many instances it is not just the salary, it is the opportunity for upward mobility, it is the security in the job, it has to do with some of the violence they are facing…”

He revealed that many countries have now started looking at this and giving incentives to retain some of these individuals.

“If we really want to help in this area, when we are preparing individuals for entry into the workforce, there must be appropriate planning, because it makes very little sense to train people who you can’t then take up and utilise their services.

“When a government spends money on training an individual, it takes on average about 14 years for that government to recoup the cost of education and in actual fact when someone migrates, that training is lost to the population, the country really is left with a serious deficit.”

He said there is a need to address education, recruitment practices and to also look at migration and negotiate with receiving countries.

“There are a couple countries where the major accepting country has an agreement with those countries where the training cost for the nurses and some of the professionals are actually shared on a 50/50 basis with the receiving country. And what they ask for is that they provide them with a certain amount of nurses per year.”

Notwithstanding, he noted that compensation must not be overlooked, saying, “We need to compensate our staff appropriately.” (JH)

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