Nurse migration and health workforce planning: Ireland as illustrative of international challenges.

Ireland began actively recruiting nurses internationally in 2000. Between 2000 and 2010, 35% of new recruits into the health system were non-EU migrant nurses. Ireland is more heavily reliant upon international nurse recruitment than the UK, New Zealand or Australia. This paper draws on in-depth interviews (N=21) conducted in 2007 with non-EU migrant nurses working in Ireland, a quantitative survey of non-EU migrant nurses (N=337) conducted in 2009 and in-depth interviews conducted with key stakeholders (N= 12) in late 2009/early 2010. Available primary and secondary data indicate a fresh challenge for health workforce planning in Ireland as immigration slows and nurses (both non-EU and Irish trained) consider emigration. Successful international nurse recruitment campaigns obviated the need for health workforce planning in the short-term, however the assumption that international nurse recruitment had ‘solved’ the nursing shortage was short-lived and the current presumption that nurse migration (both emigration and immigration) will always ‘work’ for Ireland over-plays the reliability of migration as a health workforce planning tool. This article analyses Ireland’s experience of international nurse recruitment 2000-2010, providing a case study which is illustrative of health workforce planning challenges faced internationally.