Nursing, the backbone of medical care, remains one of the most mobile and lucrative professions even in turbulent economic times. With the global shortfall in nurses, modern-day Florence Nightingales are leaving their homeland to light up the distant shores of high-income countries for bigger pay packets and a better life.

With the increasing shortage of nurses worldwide, the nursing brain drain has intensified in recent decades, and preferred destinations are concentrated in these five countries that offer attractive remuneration packages and easier entry requirements.

1. United States

With an average annual salary of approximately USD67,490 for a registered nurse, America is indeed the land of opportunities. The demand for experienced nurses in the country is notably high in the areas of OR, ICU and ED.

Most registered nurses who intend to work in the US usually connect with a nursing employer who can help them navigate the process. Foreign nurses would require a Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools (CGFNS) certificate or a full and unrestricted license to practice professional nursing in the state of intended employment (NCLEX).

Mary-Ellen Betterton, an executive at Adex Medical Staffing, a US-based travel nursing company, said hospital leaders across the country say when they use international nurses, they see improved patient satisfaction and improved employee satisfaction.

Maria Jenkins, a Filipino from Malaysia, left to work as a nursing assistant in an elderly home in Washington, and is at the same time studying to be certified so that she can work in the hospital. “They do not recognise your diploma from your own country. You need to pass exams and get certification.”

Teresa Hardwick, who had 13 years of nursing experience in the UK, now works as a nurse in Midland Memorial Hospital in Texas. She advises international nurses “to be open minded and accepting of change and the different ways of working, take opportunities to learn and... share your knowledge with others.”

2. Norway

As the average lifespan of the population increases, more qualified healthcare professionals are needed. All healthcare employees need a formal authorisation from the Directorate for Health and Social Affairs. Along with that is a degree in general nursing.

Besides, it is necessary for nurses to speak and read Norwegian, and prospective nurses are advised to learn it before they apply for authorisation. A qualified nurse can earn as high as USD47,000 a year.

Language appears to be a major hindrance for foreign nurses. Mariamoller, a British registered nurse, said, “I worked for the last three months in an elderly home and found communication very difficult with both patients and staff. I also found that communication was even more difficult in stressful situations; however, that is just my experience.”

3. Australia

For nurses, the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Accreditation Council (ANMAC) performs skills assessments for migration and the average annual salary a registered nurse takes home is around USD46,720.

Originally from India, registered nurse Jisha Abraham arrived in Australia two years ago. A graduate from All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIMS), she was promoted to Chief Nurse one year after securing a job with the country’s largest private aged care provide. Jisha recently won the ”Best Care Manager in Australia” award and is grateful to the support from Nursing Careers Australia.

“I didn’t know much about aged care because it doesn’t exist in India, so initially I thought I might lose my skills if I didn’t work in a hospital,” Jisha said. “However, I have gained more experience after two years working in the aged care industry, which is incredible because I never would have done that in a hospital.”

4. Canada

Nurses with skills and experience in specialty areas and those willing to work in remote Canadian communities are in demand. Internationally educated nurses (IENs) who intend to work in the country should get licensed by following the processes for Canadian registered nurses. The latest salary posting is an annual income of USD44,700.

Mark Estoesta, a Filipino nurse, works as a certified registered nurse in Canada. He recalls the earlier days. “What’s going through your mind when you’re waiting to board the airplane to start your new life in Canada? Canada is a very rich and diverse country. People are treated here with equality and respect regardless of your ethnicity, culture, and religion.”

5. United Kingdom

Working as a nurse in the UK presents great career opportunities as the National Health Service (NHS) relies a lot on foreign medical professionals. A nurse’s annual salary falls in the range of USD27,249 to USD35,400 depending on experience and qualifications.

Nurses and midwives who have trained outside the European Economic Area (EEA) and want to work in the UK as a nurse or midwife must gain professional registration with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC). Applicants are tested for competence through eligibility tests and other formalities.

With foreign nurses filling up gaps in the hospitals, local nurses feel there are limitations in their language capability. British student nurse Amy Maud said, "Although they intend to do their job, some can't speak fluent English, which is a massive issue for staff and patients when trying to communicate important information. I also think patients might feel they won't be understood when talking with foreign members of staff." MIMS

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