We are stuck in a cycle of losing nurses and recruiting nurses from abroad | Letter

As Howard Catton, CEO of the International Council of Nurses, suggests in your article that nurses are understandably becoming angry in countries across Africa (Recruitment of nurses from global South branded ‘new form of colonism’, March 27). This is due both to their working conditions and because some of their colleagues are recruited by wealthier countries, causing labor shortages and damaging already fragile healthcare systems.

The vast majority of nurses worldwide are frustrated with their work environment. Simply put, many countries have failed to train and retain sufficient staff. To fill labor shortages, they resort to international recruitment, perpetuating a cycle of shortages, recruitment and migration. The current World Health Organization code of practice, with its traffic light system of categorizing countries as ‘red’, ‘orange’ and ‘green’, does not work. Consider the patterns of recruitment of nurses from Nigeria by some health boards in Britain.

International recruitment can be seen as a “new form of colonialism”; or, in economic terms, interpreted as global labor market integration; Or from a human rights perspective it could be argued that it concerns nurses’ right to mobility. No matter how you look at it, it is frustrating at best to see healthcare policymakers fail to value the nursing workforce. Providing ethical arguments is not enough to address human resources challenges.

All governments around the world must develop and implement robust retention strategies for nurses and other healthcare workers. The only way to address shortages is to value nursing and retain this workforce, and avoid international recruitment.
Radha Adhikari
Lecturer in Adult Healthcare, University of the West of Scotland

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