Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland
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The consequences of Ireland's culture of medical migration

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-02-07, 12:09 authored by Niamh HumphriesNiamh Humphries, Sophie Crowe, Cian McDermott, Sara McAleese, Ruairi BrughaRuairi Brugha

BACKGROUND: In recent years, Ireland has experienced a large-scale, outward migration of doctors. This presents a challenge for national policy makers and workforce planners seeking to build a self-sufficient medical workforce that trains and retains enough doctors to meet demand. Although, traditionally, medical migration has been considered beneficial to the Irish health system, austerity has brought a greater level of uncertainty to the health system and, with it, a need to reappraise the professional culture of migration and its impact on the Irish health system.

METHODS: This paper illustrates how a culture of migration informs career and migration plans. It draws on quantitative data-registration and migration data from source and destination countries-and qualitative data-in-depth interviews with 50 doctors who had undertaken postgraduate medical training in Ireland.

RESULTS: Of 50 respondents, 42 highlighted the importance of migration. The culture of medical migration rests on two assumptions-that international training/experience is beneficial to all doctors and that those who emigrate will return to Ireland with additional skills and experience. This assumption of return is challenged by a new generation of doctors whose professional lives have been shaped by globalisation and by austerity. Global comparisons reveal the comparatively poor working conditions, training and career opportunities in Ireland and the relative attractiveness of a permanent career abroad.

CONCLUSION: In light of these changes, there is a need to critically appraise the culture of medical migration to determine if and in what circumstances migration is appropriate to the needs of the Irish health system. The paper considers the need to reappraise the culture of medical migration and the widespread emigration that it promotes.


Thanks to the HRB for funding the Doctor Emigration Project (HRA_HSR/2013/318). The authors thank the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland (RCPI) for funding NH's time to write up this paper.



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Published Citation

Humphries N, Crowe S, McDermott C, McAleese S, Brugha R. The consequences of Ireland's culture of medical migration. Human Resources for Health. 2017;15(1):87

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  • Public Health and Epidemiology

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