The world is vying for healthcare workers

Competition for healthcare talent is intensifying at the global level, leaving some countries with an edge and others at a disadvantage, including the U.S. 

A combination of pay, savvy recruitment and lifestyle has helped Australia emerge as one of the most aggressive poachers of healthcare talent, The Wall Street Journal reports. The country granted 4,950 visas to healthcare workers over the nine months ending with March 2023 and still faces a nursing shortage. 

As British nurses went on strike this past winter, an Australian advertising campaign in the British Isles showed healthcare workers in sunlit rooms. The Journal spoke with one physician who left Britain for Australia to earn about $56,000 more a year — due in part to a governmental supplement — and commute to work via bicycle ride on the oceanfront.

In the U.S., a green card backlog has slowed health systems' global recruitment efforts. It could take up to four years before nurses recruited this summer could begin work in the U.S., which places healthcare employers at an international disadvantage. 

The U.S. lost more than 100,000 nurses between 2020 and 2021, and another 800,000 nurses have indicated they intend to leave the workforce by 2027. The U.S. faces a shortage of between 37,800 and 124,000 physicians by 2034, including deficits in primary and specialty care, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.

A number of countries are eliminating barriers to entry. The U.K. introduced a new visa category for healthcare workers with reduced fees. In 2022, Ireland relaxed employment restrictions for non-European physicians already in the country in an effort to retain them. 

International recruitment of healthcare professionals can be devastating for countries with fragile healthcare systems or meager talent pipelines to begin with. In Zimbabwe, the vice president and health minister in April threatened that the country would pass a new law to criminalize active recruitment of Zimbabwe's healthcare workers. 

"If people die in hospitals because there are no nurses and doctors — and somebody who has been so irresponsible for not training their own nationals, but wanting poor countries to train for them — it's a crime that must be taken seriously," Vice President and Health Minister Constantino Chiwenga said at the time, according to WSJ

In a safeguarding effort, the World Health Organization has asked members to refrain from actively recruiting physicians and nurses from 55 countries with the most pressing workforce challenges unless they first reach bilateral agreements to support the countries where they are recruiting from.

Some countries with pressing workforce challenges are making it more difficult for healthcare workers to emigrate. The Philippines caps the number of healthcare workers who can work overseas, and Nigerian lawmakers are considering legislation requiring physicians to work at home for at least five years before they can emigrate.

Copyright © 2024 Becker's Healthcare. All Rights Reserved. Privacy Policy. Cookie Policy. Linking and Reprinting Policy.


Featured Whitepapers

Featured Webinars