Linda McGillis Hall

Canada’s Nurses Continue to Migrate to US for Full-Time Work

23 April 2013

In a special issue of the Canadian Journal of Nursing Leadership, released today the results of a program of research led by Bloomberg Nursing’s  Dr. Linda McGillis Hall and colleagues examining Canadian nurse migration and mobility are reported. Nurse migration from Canada to the US has occurred for decades, although earlier work by McGillis Hall et al. showed an increase in this pattern during the 1990s.

“What is particularly disturbing in this recent research” says Dr. McGillis Hall “is that almost half of the 4,295 Canadian-educated nurses working in the US who were surveyed, migrated to the US for full-time work, after unsuccessfully searching for employment here in Canada before leaving.”

Focus groups with a sample of these nurses reported by Dr. Jessica Peterson, a Bloomberg doctoral graduate, highlight the importance of learning opportunities and supportive work environments on nurses’ career decisions to migrate.

Findings from a second study from this research program examined the internal migration of 2,675 Canadian-educated nurses across Canada.  Full-time work, opportunities for career advancement and flexible scheduling were key factors contributing to nurse mobility throughout Canada. Unlike migration to the US, few incentives to move between the provinces/territories in Canada are provided to nurses, and complexities with licensing were noted.  Geographic mapping of the migratory patterns from two of Canada’s provinces show the tendency for nurses to move to a nearby province or territory. Further qualitative analysis of cross-Canada nurse mobility was conducted by three other doctoral students involved in the research program.  In her analysis of factors that influence career decisions Dr. Sheri Price identifies that while nurses are drawn to the caring aspects of the profession, they also see nursing as a career that enables mobility.  At the same time, Canadian nurses identified lack of support for engaging in ongoing education – both financially and with scheduling, along with challenges accessing accredited educational programs reports Michelle Lalonde, PhD candidate. Finally in an article led by doctoral student Alexandra Harris, licensed practical nurses were noted to have specific drivers for mobility including opportunities to enhance their scope of practice and advance their education, as well as to gain professional respect and recognition. In two policy papers rounding out this special issue, Dr. Sioban Nelson reminds us of how the global movement towards free trade enables greater mobility for skilled nursing professionals. Finally, Foster and MacDonald-Rencz highlight the important contribution that an understanding of trends in nurse mobility and migration has on informing nursing health human resources retention and recruitment policy in Canada.

This program of research was funded by the Canadian Foundation for Healthcare Improvement (CFHI)),  formerly known as the Canadian Health Services Research Foundation (CHSRF) and Health Canada’s Nursing Policy Unit.  CHSRF brought together researchers and decision-makers to identify and study gaps in health systems research that could provide evidence to inform policy change. These programs of research also aimed at developing capacity within nursing through training and mentoring the next generation of nurse researchers. Four of the papers in this special issue (Peterson, Price, Lalonde and Harris), are led by doctoral students/doctoral graduates from this experience.