Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland Coláiste Ríoga na Máinleá in Éirinn

RCSI/DCU Study shows health professionals emigrate from Ireland to escape difficult working conditions

19 May 2015
Doctors, nurses and midwives have been leaving Ireland in large numbers since 2008, and there are concerns that many will not return. A new study has found that difficult working conditions in the Irish health system form the main reason for them leaving.  The study, conducted by researchers from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) and Dublin City University (DCU), was published today in BMC Human Resources for Health. 

“It is clear that unsatisfactory working conditions in the Irish health system are a major factor in their decision to emigrate and play a big role in whether or not they will return” said lead researcher, Dr. Niamh Humphries, Division of Population Health Sciences, RCSI. 

Respondents experienced better working conditions, better staffing levels and better morale in their current workplaces, mainly in Australia, UK and USA. These health professionals felt that this vindicated their decision to leave Ireland. While many indicated a willingness to return to work in the Irish health system, they first wanted to see better working conditions.  

As this respondent explains: “I want to return home from a personal point of view but right now it makes no sense professionally” (Respondent Doctor 74). 

The question for Ireland is whether it can improve working conditions sufficiently to both retain and attract back its emigrant doctors, nurses and midwives.  The research findings offer useful insights into health professional emigration which will contribute to the national response for retaining and attracting back Irish trained health professionals. 

The RCSI-funded study drew on a self-selecting sample of 388 emigrant health professionals (accessed via Facebook) who completed an online survey in July 2014. 

RCSI is among the top 50 most international universities in the world (Times Higher Education University World Rankings, 2014-15). It is a not-for-profit health sciences institution focused on education and research to drive positive change in all areas of human health worldwide.  RCSI is headquartered in Dublin and is a recognised College of the National University of Ireland. In 2010, RCSI was granted independent degree awarding status by the State, which enables the College to award degrees alongside its traditional powers to award licentiates.