Wanted: 2.4 million nurses, and that’s just in India

In most countries of the world there is a shortage of nurses but nowhere is it so acute as in the developing world. With International Nursing Day on 12 May 2010, Kathryn Senior investigates
In every country, rich or poor, the story is the same. There are not enough nurses. The developed world fills its vacancies by enticing nurses from other countries, while developing countries are unable to compete
with better pay, better professional development and the lure of excitement offered elsewhere. A World Bank report released in March describes the severity of the shortage of nurses in the Caribbean and Latin America alone. English-speaking Caribbean nations currently have 1.25 nurses for every 1000 people; 10 times fewer than countries in the European Union and the United States of America (USA). Around three in every 10 nursing positions currently remain unfilled and the report predicts that Caribbean countries will be short of 10 000 nurses to help care for their ageing population by 2025. According to Deena Nardi, director of the Nurse Delegation Programme at the International Council of Nurses, the Caribbean is particularly prone to losing its nurses. “The global migration of nurses is particularly severe in smaller island nations such as Jamaica, where 8% of its generalist
nurses and 20% of its specialist nurses leave for more developed countries each year,” she says. Between 2002 and 2006, more than 1800 nurses left the Caribbean to work abroad. “People do not leave only for higher salaries – moving for better work conditions and the opportunity to progress professionally are also part of the problem.” “These ‘push’ factors are very hard to fix,” says Christoph Kurowski, World Bank sector leader for human development, and author of the report.
Nardi stresses that the Caribbean countries are not an isolated example. “In Malawi, there are only 17 nurses for every 100 000 people,” she says. In India, nurse shortages occur at every level of the health-
care system. According to Dileep Kumar, chief nursing officer at the Ministry of Health and director of the Indian Nursing Council, 2.4 million nurses will be needed by 2012 to provide a nurse-patient ratio of one nurse per 500 patients.
More at Bull World Health Organ 2010;88:327–328 |

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