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Using overseas registered nurses to fill employment gaps in rural health services: Quick fix or sustainable strategy?


Associate Professor Ysanne Chapman, School of Nursing and Midwifery, Monash University, Northways Road, Churchill, Victoria, 3842, Australia. Email:


Objective: This study sought to identify and evaluate approaches used to attract internationally trained nurses from traditional and non-traditional countries and incentives employed to retain them in small rural hospitals in Gippsland, Victoria.

Design: An exploratory descriptive design.

Setting: Small rural hospitals in Gippsland, Victoria.

Participants: Hospital staff responsible for recruitment of nurses and overseas trained nurses from traditional and non-traditional sources (e.g. England, Scotland, India, Zimbabwe, Holland, Singapore, Malaysia).

Results and Conclusion: Recruitment of married overseas trained nurses is more sustainable than that of single registered nurses, however, the process of recruitment for the hospital and potential employees is costly. Rural hospitality diffuses some of these expenses by the employing hospitals providing emergency accommodation and necessary furnishings. Cultural differences and dissonance regarding practice create barriers for some of the overseas trained nurses to move towards a more sanguine position. On the positive side, single overseas registered nurses use the opportunity to work in rural Australian hospitals as an effective working holiday that promotes employment in larger, more specialized hospitals. Overall both the registered nurses and the employees believe the experience to be beneficial rather than detrimental.

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