Background: International nurse recruitment is an integral part of government health care strategy in many countries. However, the gendered implications of nurse migration have been little explored despite the fact that the nursing workforce is predominantly made up of women.
Aim: Based on the migration of nurses from the English-speaking Caribbean region to the UK, this paper explores the significance of gender at both the macro and micro levels.
Methods: Four strands of inquiry were explored: nurse migration, impact on development, work experiences and family life. Key terms were used to search the electronic databases SSCI, EBSCO and JSTOR. An interpretative framework based on the feminist theory of intersectionality was used to systematically review the 15 studies that met the inclusion criteria.
Findings: Gender issues are significant across all aspects of the migratory process. Migrant nurses contribute to social progress through remittances and knowledge gained abroad although overall, nurse migration negatively impacts development and there are hidden implications for women. For some Caribbean nurses, migration reflects increased economic freedom; however, for others, gender inequality lies at the centre of the decision to relocate. Gender inequality also permeates the lives of many migrant nurses even in countries where economic and work conditions are improved.
Conclusions: The ramifications of nurse migration cannot be fully understood without attention to gender inequalities and the specific socio-economic contexts in which they exist. There is need for a gender-centred approach to international nursing recruitment policy that takes account not only of the impact on developing countries, but also of the well-being of migrant nurses themselves.