Shortage of Nurses in Australia

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Nurses form an integral part of the health work force of a nation. They are responsible in maintaining the health standards and the quality of health of the most valuable asset of the country, human resource. Hence, the shortage of nurses has posed serious threats to nations all over the world, especially the developed ones like Australia, USA, Canada etc. Addressing this problem and attaining self-sufficiency should form a priority in the Government’s agenda of each country. We list down the implications of these shortages and a number of potential solutions to combat this problem.


This paper examines the dynamics and policy context of the active overseas recruitment of nurses in Australia, particularly from the U.K, Phillippines, Spain and Germany. In Australia, as in most developed countries, there is an acute shortage of registered nurses. This paper presents an overview of the complex interlinking set of factors which are the causes and consequences of nursing shortages and also alternatives and solutions to the problem.

Even though the shortage of nurses cannot be clearly defined, the demand and supply imbalance for the nurse workforce is clearly evident in many countries. There has been an increasing demand for nurses all around the world, but the supply is constantly failing to keep pace with the increasing demand. This problem of shortage of nurses is a serious health system problem which undermines the health system effectiveness and requires potential health system solutions.

This shortage has resulted into an emerging trend for the inflow of nurses into the developed countries from the developing and third world countries. The developed countries like Australia, USA, and Canada have resorted to the active recruitment of international nurses to combat these shortages. These countries have viewed international nurse recruitment as a short-term fix to the problem of shortage. Shared language, common educational curriculum and post colonial ties between countries tend to be factors determining which developing countries are being targeted as source of nurses. These factors that influence migration are referred to as ‘pull’ and ‘push’ factors. Push factors pertain to the donor countries and pull factors are associated with the receiving countries.

The globalisation of the labour market for healthcare professionals has both major short-term and long-term implications for individual practitioners, for healthcare systems, and for governments. The short-term implications would include the following factors:

Culture shock

It refers to the physical and emotional discomfort faced by an individual when coming to live in another country or place different from the place of origin. This is because, the way of living of the individual is not openly accepted or considered normal in the new place. The nurses coming to the country are generally from the underdeveloped or developing nations and have to face this culture shock as soon as they arrive.


It is the state of being unhappy as being away from familiar persons or things. These nurses who go abroad for work, have to leave their family, friends and everyone in their country. As they are not familiar with anyone in the new country, they have to face the consequences of homesickness, which may in turn affect their quality of work.

Communication difficulties

These nurses who travel to Australia, Canada or the other active recruiting countries, are mostly from the non- English speaking countries. Even those who come in from the English-speaking countries find it difficult in following the local accent. They may even find it difficult in communicating effectively with the medical staff.

Accommodation issues

Overseas nurses have to look out for...
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