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Review Article

Overseas trained nurses working in regional and rural practice settings: do we understand the issues?

Submitted: 12 February 2010
Revised: 22 July 2010
Published: 20 September 2010

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Author(s) : Wellard SJ, Stockhausen LJ.

Citation: Wellard SJ, Stockhausen LJ.  Overseas trained nurses working in regional and rural practice settings: do we understand the issues? Rural and Remote Health (Internet) 2010; 10: 1458. Available: (Accessed 19 October 2017)


Introduction:  Issues associated with the employment of overseas trained nurses (OTNs) in regional and rural practice settings have received little professional attention in Australia. The global nursing workforce crisis has dominated discussion about the migration of nurses. This review explored the contemporary understandings of the employment of OTNs in Australian regional and rural practice settings.
Methods:  An integrative literature review was undertaken to incorporate a range of literature types related to OTN employment. A search of electronic databases and relevant web pages was undertaken for the publication period 1995–2008. Integrative literature reviews incorporate assessment of empirical research as well as theoretical and opinion-based literature to present a broad synthesis of the topic of interest. Following identification of relevant literature, thematic analysis was undertaken to reveal patterns and relationships among concepts facilitating synthesis of findings across the range of literature.
Results:  There is an abundance of literature exploring the international migration of nurses that demonstrates an imbalance of migration from poorer countries to more affluent countries. This review identified a number of economic and ethical issues, together with risks for potential exploitation of migrant nurses. There was minimal literature specific to the experiences of OTNs working in regional and rural areas. However, there has been some exploration of issues associated with medical recruitment to rural areas.
Conclusions:  The employment of OTNs is accompanied by complex and varied issues which require resourceful and proactive responses by healthcare employers. Further research is needed to understand the challenges OTNs have in working in rural settings, particularly in Australia. Increased understanding in clinical settings of factors that influence nurses to migrate, as well as the range of barriers they face in working and living in host countries, may assist in the retention of these nurses.

Key words:  Australia, international personnel recruitment, overseas qualified nurses, overseas trained nurses, rural workforce, worker retention.

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