Recent decades have coincided with the rapid globalisation of the nursing profession. Within Australia there has been rising dependence on overseas qualified nurses (OQNs) to compensate for chronic nurse shortages related to the continued exodus of Australian nurses overseas and to emerging opportunities in other professions. Between 1983/4 and 1994/5, 30 544 OQNs entered Australia on either a permanent or temporary basis, counter-balancing the departure overseas of 23 613 locally trained and 6519 migrant nurses (producing a net gain of just 412 nurses in all). The period 1995/6--1999/2000 saw an additional 11 757 permanent or long-term OQN arrivals, with nursing currently ranked third target profession in Australia's skill migration program, in the context of continuing attrition among local nurses. This pattern of reliance on OQNs is a phenomenon simultaneously occurring in the UK, the US, Canada and the Middle East --- the globalisation of nursing reflecting not merely Western demand but the growing agency and participation of women in skilled migration, their desire for improved quality of life, enhanced professional opportunity and remuneration, family reunion and adventure.