Thursday, March 06, 2008

Health Care Worker Brain Drain.

The US has a shortage of health care workers. "The study by the Association of Schools of Public Health found that by 2020 the U.S. will need more than 250,000 additional public health workers." Living in an area of small cities, we know this on a personal level. It is hard to find good doctors to fill in when one of the current doctors needs to go out of town. It is even harder, if not impossible, to find doctors and nurse practitioners to replace those doctors who retire or move. The smaller the town or hospital, the longer hours the doctors tend to have to work.

Many foreign doctors move to the US for better opportunities, better facilities and more income than they have in their country of origin. I've read that a fairly large percentage, though not a majority, of doctors in Great Britain, are from foreign countries.

I risk sounding like I'm against having foreign doctors in the US. I'm not because I know that they have to take a number of exams, etc. before they can be licensed here. A doctor who communicates well, cares about the patients, and knows the medical information is a good doctor, regardless of his/her native tongue. Yes, that could exclude some doctors born and educated in the US.

What I really want to know is why aren't the US and the other western countries educating more doctors and nurses among their own people? Why are relying on the rest of the world to fill in the gaps? Certainly the richer countries have more resources to do this than the other countries. Cuba, apparently, is an exception in that it has 21 medical schools for a population of 21 million.

"Currently, there are 2.4 million too few physicians, nurses, and midwives to provide essential health interventions, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), a shortage that will require adopting a global approach to health worker human resources." Link here and here

"A global health conference, which ended in Kampala yesterday, called for massive commitments by international organisations and countries to increase the number of doctors and nurses to resolve the health workers crisis.

"The participants also want rich countries to pay a recruitment fee to the poor countries whose health workers they import.

These are some of the recommendations contained in the 'Kampala Declaration', adopted by the over 1,000 participants from 57 countries who were present at the Global Forum for Human Resources for Health."

Doctors should be free to move if they choose, but every effort should be made by the richer countries to train more doctors at home.

Another good link.


  1. What's interesting...last night on "All Things Considered" they had a feature on how far behind American kids are in math -- the building block to the sort of scientific education that prepares them to be doctors and other health professionals. The consensus opinion was that math education in this country is too haphazard -- every state has its own requirements -- too faddish, too beholden to standardized testing and too conceptually scattered; instead of teaching children very well on a few very basic concepts, it's all over the place thematically, and not cohesive from school year to school year. That, they say, is why kids from India and China are beating our kids in math competency.

  2. I think that many American grade school teachers just don't know how to teach math. They may have had poor math (and science) teaching in grade school themselves and then poor methods courses. Many High Schools require advanced math courses, but they forget that the people need good grounding in the basics for every day life.


And what do you think?