Emigration to USA-Boon for Nurses But What About the Home Countries?


It has been long evident that USA has been the breeding ground for professionals in every fields. Recent debate on immigration might have created some tension but nurses have always been encouraged to emigrate to USA. A sharp increase in the demand for nurses with limited domestic supply led to the formation of a new bill on immigration of nurses. There will be no cap on the number of  nurse immigrants allowed per year if the immigration bill is passed.

 However, there are other severe consequences of such US policies. Many countries who spend millions to train the nurses find themselves with an empty glass at the end of the hour. Countries like India and the Phillipines which send thousands of nurses every year to USA are the ones who are going to suffer the most.  Even the poor African countries are going to suffer. There is going to be a sharp rise in emigration of nurses in these countries. NY Times writes:

The exodus of nurses from poor to rich countries has strained health systems in the developing world, which are already facing severe shortages of their own. Many African countries have begun to demand compensation for the training and loss of nurses and doctors who move away…

Now, who is responsible for this? Doesn't USA have the right to open up its borders and decide its own policy? Are those home countries justified in claiming compensation? This is a matter of debate. Some of the people in USA itself are opposed to the view of opening up borders without a cap on the number of nurses immigration. NY Times writes again:

"We're disappointed that Congress, instead of providing appropriations for domestic nursing programs, is outsourcing the education of nurses," said Erin McKeon, the group's associate director of government affairs…There are now many more Americans seeking to be nurses than places to educate them. In 2005, American nursing schools rejected almost 150,000 applications from qualified people, according to the National League for Nursing, a nonprofit group that counts more than 1,100 nursing schools among its members.

It is natural that some people feel threatened and some are disappointed over the new government measure. The long term solution might be to invest in education rather than just opening up the borders to other countries and draining nurses out of those countries. But, what about the home countries? Aren't they getting back something? NY Times writes again:

The flight of nurses from the Philippines, a former American colony, has provided a huge boost to a weak economy, through remittances. Some government agencies there have encouraged the export of nurses, who send home billions of dollars each year to their families. A nurse in the Philippines would earn a starting salary of less than $2,000 a year compared with at least $36,000 a year in the United States, said Dr. Jaime Galvez Tan, a medical professor at the University of the Philippines who led the country's National Institutes of Health.

So, is it not worth exporting nurses? I know hundreds of Nepali people are currently studying nursing in many US colleges. I doubt if they will ever go back to Nepal but they will definitely send remittances back home boosting the ailing economy. So, we need to consider this as yet another export business. This helps individuals achieve their potential while helping the country realize its other goals. As for the problem of shortage of nurses in developing countries, one needs to devise policies accordingly.

(based on Celia W.Dugger,US Plan to Lure Nurses May hurt Poor Nations, NY Times, May 24,2006)


2 Responses to “Emigration to USA-Boon for Nurses But What About the Home Countries?”

  1. lizard Says:

    you raise a pertinent issue ! but exporting skilled labourers abroad and just depending on remittances may not be a viable option for long term ! we should explore how basic health facilites can be redered to the needy and poor people of this nation ! a recent newssuggested that there are fewer
    applications for the post of doctors in government hospitals
    than required ! so brain drain is a problem and we sud explore if we r really in a situation to curb this !

  2. sanobhai Says:

    How does this fit into the globalization and free trade argument? Should labor be treated differently than goods?

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