The migration and transitioning experiences of internationally educated nurses: a global perspective

J Nurs Manag. 2012 May;20(4):534-50. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2834.2011.01222.x. Epub 2011 Mar 29.


Aim: To comprehensively review recent literature related to the migration and transitioning experiences of internationally educated nurses (IENs).

Background: Many developed nations are redressing nursing deficits by recruiting IENs. Acquiring credentialing is historically recognized as a barrier to obtaining meaningful employment, yet broader issues of transition into global health care contexts are also significant.

Methods: A database search of CINAHL, Medline, Scopus and Web of Science, and a hand-search of key nursing journals produced 239 combined hits, with 21 articles meeting the inclusion criteria.

Results: Five common themes were extracted and synthesized including: (1) reasons for and challenges with immigration, (2) cultural displacement, (3) credentialing difficulties and 'deskilling', (4) discriminatory experiences and (5) strategies of IENs which smoothed transition.

Conclusions: Although major reasons for migration are related to improved income and professional stature, these have overwhelmingly shown to erode upon relocation. Cultural displacement appears to largely stem from communication and language differences, feelings of being an outsider and differences in nursing practice. The deskilling process and discrimination are also key players which hinder transition and demoralize many IENs.

Implications for nursing management: The present study highlights that the huge advantages in professional skill and cultural diversity that IENs can bring to any nursing unit will not be fully realized without substantial efforts to reduce practice limitations (deskilling) and discrimination. Individual strategies for easing the transition should be taught to IENs, probably through mentorship by experienced IENs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Emigration and Immigration*
  • Foreign Professional Personnel / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Needs Assessment*
  • Nursing Evaluation Research
  • Nursing Methodology Research