The role played by recruitment agencies in the emigration of South African nurses

  • M J Oosthuizen
  • V J Ehlers
  • K Jooste
Keywords: emigration of South African nurses, expatriate South African nurses, international recruitment of nurses, recruitment agencies


Active recruitment of foreign nurses might offer solutions to many countries' nursing shortages. During 1999, the International Council of Nurses (ICN) expressed concerns regarding the aggressive international recruitment of nurses. The ICN maintained that internationally recruited nurses might be particularly at risk of exploitation or abuse. The ICN denounced unethical recruitment practices that might exploit nurses (ICN, 1999a:1-6). Many nurses who leave the Republic of South Africa might use recruitment agencies' assistance. These concerns raised by the ICN indicated the need for obtaining information about the emigration of South African nurses and the role played by recruitment agencies. The purpose of this study was to explore and describe how recruitment agencies contributed to the emigration of South African nurses. Both qualitative and quantitative approaches were used. A purposive sample of recruitment agencies that recruited South African nurses to practise in foreign countries (N=4) was drawn. The second sample, a purposive sample selected through snowball sampling consisted of South African registered nurses who were practising in foreign countries (N=27). The findings obtained from structured interviews conducted with recruitment agencies were supported by findings from e-mail responses from nurses working in foreign countries. These research results indicated that recruitment agencies in South Africa provided professional services to nurses who wanted to work in foreign countries. Contrary to research reports published in other countries, no evidence was found of nurses being exploited by recruitment agencies in South Africa.

Keywords: emigration of South African nurses; expatriate South African nurses; international recruitment of nurses; recruitment agencies

Health SA Gesondheid Vol. 10 (3) 2005: pp. 57-67

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 2071-9736
print ISSN: 1025-9848