Ireland’s medical brain drain: migration intentions of Irish medical students.
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Background To provide the optimum level of healthcare, it is important that the supply of well-trained doctors meets the demand. However, despite many initiatives, Ireland continues to have a shortfall of physicians, which has been projected to persist. Our study aimed to investigate the migration intentions of Irish medical students and identify the factors that influence their decisions in order to design appropriate interventions to sustain the supply of trained doctors in order to maintain a viable medical system. Methods An online cross-sectional survey was undertaken of all Irish medical students studying in the Republic of Ireland. The survey included nominal, ordinal, and scale items to determine migration intentions, factors influencing their decisions, and understanding of the Irish healthcare system. Results A total of 2 273 medical students responded (37% response rate), of whom 1 519 were classified as Irish medical students (having completed secondary school in Ireland). Of these, 88% indicated they were either definitely migrating or contemplating migrating following graduation or completion of the pre-registration intern year. Forty percent expressed an intention of returning to Ireland within 5 years. The factors most influencing their decision to leave were career opportunities (85%), working conditions (83%), and lifestyle (80%). Conclusion The migration intentions expressed in this study predict an immediate and severe threat to the sustainability of the Irish healthcare service. Urgent interventions such as providing information about career options and specialty training pathways are required. These must begin in the undergraduate phase and continue in postgraduate training and are needed to retain medical school graduates.