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LETTER | Implications of recruiting foreign nurses in local healthcare sector

LETTER | The global landscape is currently facing a pronounced nursing deficit, with estimates suggesting a shortage of nearly 13 million nurses by 2030, as reported by the International Council of Nurses.

The Southeast Asia region is not immune to this challenge, expecting a shortfall of about 1.9 million nurses.

Historically, Malaysia, with a population of over 30 million, has been self-sufficient in cultivating its nursing professionals. Yet, recent trends indicate a troubling scarcity, resulting in extended wait times in emergency units, patient admission delays and an overburdened patient care system.

Malaysia is renowned for its advanced medical infrastructure and presents a myriad of employment prospects across diverse healthcare environments, ranging from hospitals to private clinics.

However, the country has been confronting a persistent nursing deficit for more than a decade. Healthcare institutions, including hospitals and nursing homes, consistently report an alarmingly low nurse-to-patient ratio, which compromises patient care quality.

Although the recent economic downturn prompted many retired nurses to re-enter the profession, there remains a daunting gap of 100,000 unfilled positions.

The proposition of recruiting foreign nurses brings with it a set of advantages and disadvantages. One notable benefit is the continuity they offer in long-term care.

These nurses undergo a rigorous validation process, ensuring they commit to a minimum tenure in their assigned local hospitals.

By integrating these skilled professionals into the system, we can momentarily alleviate the prevailing nursing deficit, granting the government a window to formulate enduring solutions.

Conversely, an over-reliance on foreign nurses might undermine efforts to improve the working environment and remuneration for local nursing staff.

The influx of foreign nurses could inadvertently discourage Malaysians from venturing into the nursing field.

Moreover, the recruitment and integration of foreign nurses can be a protracted affair. Acquiring the requisite visas and fulfilling regulatory stipulations can span from six months to two years.

Induction, support needed

While foreign nurses contribute a diverse skill set and experience, they are not without challenges. Adapting to a new cultural milieu, overcoming language obstacles and contending with potential outsider perceptions can influence their professional efficacy and self-assurance.

It's pivotal to recognise that nursing methodologies are deeply rooted in cultural and societal values. Hence, foreign nurses necessitate thorough induction, consistent clinical oversight and robust support mechanisms to guarantee patient welfare.

Nursing epitomises a venerable vocation, characterised by commitment, empathy and expertise. As we grapple with the intricacies of nursing deficits and the integration of foreign nurses, the essence of nursing - patient welfare - must remain at the forefront.

I ardently advocate for more individuals to contemplate a career in nursing. It transcends mere employment. It is a profound calling that bestows fulfilment and the opportunity to impact lives greatly.


The writer is from Department of Nursing, School of Medical and Life Sciences, Sunway University.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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