Factors that may influence South African nurses’ decisions to emigrate

  • M Oosthuizen
  • V.J Ehlers
Keywords: emigration of South African nurses, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory, global nursing shortage, remuneration of nurses, working conditions of nurses


Although no accurate statistics about the number of South African nurses working in other countries are available, the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development estimated that 35 000 South African nurses were working outside South Africa and/or outside the health care system (Horning, 2005:58). The global shortage of nurses, creating opportunities for South African nurses to work in foreign countries, as well as a variety of factors related to nursing, health care and the general living conditions in South Africa influence nurses’ decisions to emigrate. The purpose of this study was to explore and describe the factors that influence nurses’ decisions to emigrate. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory was used as a point of departure to establish what motivates the behaviour of nurses to emigrate from South Africa. A quantitative approach was used. The target population comprised all the nurses (n=3 331) on the registers of the South African Nursing Council (SANC) who completed their basic training during 2002. A random sample of 15% (n=501) of the total population of nurses who completed their basic training during 2002 was selected. Data were collected by structured questionnaires. The analysis of the data indicated that nurses’ inadequate remuneration, poor working conditions, excessive workloads, lack of personal growth and career advancement possibilities and inability to meet their safety and security needs were major factors that influenced nurses’ decisions to emigrate. The recommendations include improved remuneration for nurses, enhanced working conditions with adequate supplies and equipment, reduced workloads by employing more nurses, expanded career prospects and improved safety.

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eISSN: 2071-9736
print ISSN: 1025-9848