Migration of nurses is No. 1 challenge to healthcare system, Nurse Warner reports, and retainment strategies need to be deployed

The shortage of nurses continues to be the No. 1 challenge to the local healthcare system, says Elnora Warner, President of the Caribbean Nurses Organization and former President of the Antigua and Barbuda Nurses Association.

She blames this situation on the poaching of highly qualified nurses by more developed countries around the world, including the United States of America.

According to Nurse Warner, nurses, by and large, are the backbone of any country’s healthcare system – a statement supported by Dr. Clarissa Etienne, Director of PAHO in the region and the Americas.

Dr. Etienne says that nurses provide over 56 percent of the health systems’ workforce – which is a demonstration of the weight the profession carries – and Nurse Warner agrees they are a critical component to healthcare delivery in any country.

Warner says that migration of nurses is nothing new and has been happening over a long stretch of time. She says there have been recommended interventions to address it, but some have not even been looked at.

She notes that those nurses who migrate often do very well and ascend to higher positions quickly.

Since the 1990s, Warner says, officials from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the United Nations (UN), and even the World Bank have been looking at the migration of nurses and have conducted a study in this regard.

A report was published in 2012 to look at strategic interventions to manage this migration from the region, and several recommendations and strategies have been proffered to regional governments for managing the outflow, Nurse Warner says. 

She says some of these include training opportunities.