Experts Gather to Take a Global View of the Nursing Workforce

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On May 9, work force researcher Dr. Cheryl Jones and Associate Dean Gwen Sherwood brought together researchers, policy makers, and industry and academic leaders from within and outside of the United States to discuss issues related to the international nurse workforce at a conference titled, The Globalization of the Nursing Workforce: the Migration and Mobility of Nurses.

Nurses are a major workforce in the global economy, and their movement from country to country is a critical issue. This meeting explored the myriad legal, economic, cultural, social, and educational ramifications associated with the global nursing workforce. It was funded by the UNC Center for Global Initiatives.

Dr. Ronald P. Strauss, UNC’s Executive Vice Provost and Chief International Officer, welcomed meeting participants for this event, which was held in theFedEx Global Education Center. Dr. Niklaus Steiner, Director the UNC Center for Global Initiatives, and a policy expert in migration issues, also welcomed and challenged the group to find research opportunities to inform U.S. and global workforce policies. Dr. Jones asked attendees to consider bridging boundaries to identify key issues that need studying to prepare for and plan the future global nursing workforce.

The first speaker, Dr. Michael Gates (PhD ’05) from San Diego State University School of Nursing, told the group that nurses educated in other countries and working in the United States are more likely to be baccalaureate trained and understanding this group’s view of nursing is important for helping employers develop better strategies for integrating them into an organization.

Chifundo Zimba, a current SON doctoral student from Malawi, said that her fellow nurses often leave Malawi because of poor working and living conditions. They move to locales and organizations where they know others have been accepted and had good professional experiences.

More data needed

A major theme at the conference was that there are very little data regarding where internationally educated nurses practice and where they move over time. Dr. Jones is completing a cross-sectional study of internationally educated nurses employed in 16 states across the U.S. that should provide some of this information, which is key for studying the role of international nurses in the health care workforce.

Dr. Sherwood, who is a co-investigator on the Quality and Safety Education for Nurses (QSEN) initiative funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, sparked an important discussion of how cultural differences can affect quality and safety practices and shape patient expectations, and how employers and regulators might best equip nurses to work competently with diverse populations.

The main product from the conference will be a series of manuscripts co-authored by meeting participants outlining the state of knowledge regarding global nursing workforce migration and mobility, the gaps in knowledge, and a research agenda to guide future work in the area.

Other important topics discussed at the conference included:

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SON graduate students helped organize the conference.