Brain Gain, Drain & Waste: The Experiences of Internationally Educated Health Professionals in Canada

Authors: Ivy Lynn Bourgeault, Elena Neiterman, Jane LeBrun, Ken Viers & Judi Winkup

Canada has historically relied on internationally educated health professionals (IEHPs) to address shortages in rural and remote locations and hard to fill positions within its health care system. It continues to do so and, while this has been true for medical and nursing labour in the past, this is now also true for midwives. At the same time, we hear of numerous accounts of IEHPs who are not able to practice their profession in Canada. The barriers to practice for IEHPs – what some have labelled the ‘brain waste’ problem – have recently become a significant concern for Canadians. The difficulties this causes are not limited to the Canadian context – in terms of lost labour, and possible solutions to its human resource crises – there are important implications for the countries from which health care providers migrate.

This study was designed to fill some of these gaps in our knowledge by examining:

  • the experiences of internationally educated physicians, nurses and midwives who were
    pursuing professional integration, who have achieved it, and who have decided to redirect
    their efforts; and
  • the barriers and facilitators they experienced along the way that they feel influenced their
    relative success at becoming integrated into provincial health care systems in Canada


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