Could COVID-19 trigger a bigger ‘Brain Drain’ of Caribbean nurses?

BY. R.D. Miller

A delicate balance for economic security

This new potential wave of “Brain Drain” from COVID-19 is due to values medical experts contend are critical in keeping them on their local sand, not a lack of political gratitude, photo-ops, or alliance with one party.

Photo by cottonbro

What will the job satisfaction rate of these facilities, healthcare systems, and nurses’ scorecards be after this unprecedented COVID-19 health crisis in the Caribbean and other impoverished and developing countries?

According to experts, it is an intrinsic value that protects one’s opportunity to grow within an organization, and an extrinsic value; pay and job security.

It appears that a few of these islands, as well as other regions, could benefit from updated Occupation Health and Safety laws. I believe that the lack of such regulation jeopardizes protection, ethics in medicine, and the integration of their relationships with their patients.

Despite the fact that healthcare is where most possibilities to migrate are, the brain drain along many of these beaches, especially where there is dysfunctional governance and many complaints of corruption and bad management, crosses several industries, not just healthcare.

COVID-19 discovered how unprepared even wealthy industrialized nations with world-class medical facilities were, let alone economically struggling islands. The stories echo from a lack of supplies, long hours, burnout, the emotional labor of witnessing people die, and feeling helpless when all of their professional training taught them how to keep people alive.

Photo by Laura James

Sure, government policies provided some monetary relief, and supplies, aided financial markets, and stimulated economic activity as a result of business closures and unemployment, but experts cautioned that it may be too late to keep many of their professionals on the ground seeking a better workplace environment, better-paying jobs, and a better working environment, and security.

However, keeping nurses prepared is more important than a trillion-dollar stimulus package passed by governments around the world. Unfortunately, it will be unable to replace these professionals or the thousands of lives lost on the front lines; of frustration by these dedicated workers some of who also were infected with COVID-19 and become victims of inadequate medical systems. 

The decision to stay, or return

Every year, hundreds of young people in the Caribbean obtain nursing degrees and critical medical assistant training. According to healthcare studies, between 21 and 33 percent of medical systems employ foreign-educated nurses, and this number is increasing year after year.

The role of a nurse is just as important as that of a good doctor, a police officer, a teacher, or a safe community. Their presence frequently enables families to return to work or take time off from spending the night on a hard chair waiting for a doctor’s response.

These first responders are not there to put politics to the test; they are the doctors’ eyes and ears, the ventilator power source, from preparing a clean bed to escorting a sick person, including those with mental health issues, while also providing comfort to families in times of need.

The workforce of a country is a critical factor in its ability to innovate and compete in a global economy. Maintaining a country’s long-term health and socioeconomic stability demonstrates its ability to produce leaders and action-oriented people with valuable skills. You can only do so if you provide incentives to keep your people on the ground.

According to studies, demand from countries such as the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom, as well as other nations affected by COVID-19, has increased. Highly sought-after working visas, which can lead to permanent residency, have become a one-way ticket out for many. If another pandemic occurs, these nurses will act as a stockpile of gowns, masks, and ventilators.

Many studies have shown that, despite some limits on immigration, lately due to politics, discrimination, and other ideology towards some immigrants,  recruiters are aware that imported nurses have had a significant impact on many of these industrialized nations; health care systems, economic development, and social development are all waiting for the next group of new applicants.

Photo by Ono Kosuki

Many organizations and support groups stand to benefit from assisting many of these young students in migrating from their home country with these critical skills.

Today, a new study of caregiving in hospitals is being conducted; the difficulties in balancing work and family responsibilities, as well as emotions during this pandemic.

After graduation flight back?

You may not realize how many students and professionals are studying abroad until there is a crisis, such as geopolitical turmoil or a pandemic, and then there are frequent reports of residents wanting to return home.

However, other vital areas to a nation’s economic stability and prosperity, such as urban planning, social workers, corrections, counselors, particularly substance abuse and mental health, technology, and sports medicine, are also important to have a robust healthy local economy.

I doubt many local government officials would report the number of students who returned after graduation to contribute in some of the poorer-run countries where there is still a significant gap between the haves and have-nots and high crime rates.

Many nurses will stay along these warm and beautiful shores to avoid the hard winters, but the region must also develop incentives for those who have left to study medicine in Germany, Cuba, the United States, and elsewhere to return.

Looking for a better deal to keep them home:

COVID-19’s initial landing on the Caribbean shores, as well as many parts of Africa and Latin America, most leaders have held off the potential high tide through awareness, keeping their death rate and infection numbers low to date, based on what has been reported but this remains an open question.

As experts have noted, the Caribbean Single Market and Economy’s promise of collaboration remains emblematic as the global hunt for talent continues. It appears to be a competition for equipment, and Personal Protective Equipments (PPE) with participants fighting like modern-day pirates as supply and demand became a political sport.

The Caribbean Cooperation in Healthcare will be critical in ensuring that not only CARICOM members, but particularly poor areas, receive adequate treatment beyond vaccination. Furthermore, the current medical system, which has outgrown its aging population, as well as the rising cost of healthcare, must be addressed.

Traveling to some islands, particularly rural areas, can take a long time to reach a medical facility, unlike better-managed islands with more access, but payment at the time of service will become more difficult for poor patients.


Protecting important medical professionals will no longer be about how robust or ineffective their systems are, how much bed space is available, or how many press conferences are held, but rather about ensuring that the medical system is held to a higher standard in order to reduce potential turnover and ensure the safety of these dedicated workers from infectious diseases.

Additionally, creating a structure that connects job enjoyment and organizational dedication to all parties involved, rather than just for profit.

The reality is driving more flights out:

Concerns about improved technology, supplies, and other equipment to save lives, including newborns, reverberated through these wards prior to COVID-19. Some facilities, according to the claim, endanger both nurses’ and patients’ lives by increasing their chance of contracting an infectious disease.

COVID-19 loopholes and facilities running like an experimental drug with little accountability, according to several healthcare professionals, while pundits praise leaders for their interest in making reforms despite systemic failings on multiple fronts.

Individuals who spoke out about COVID-19’s experience working under difficult and inhumane conditions appeared to be silenced shortly after. This reduces responsibility, makes people more prone to errors, reduces best practices, and increases risks.

Photo by on

These nurses’ future departure is not due to poor leadership, gender equality, or nationality desertion. Few will admit the lack of a good education and there little few investments in research and development. Furthermore, several manufacturing companies have left town.

Unfortunately, the few success stories now face enormous student loans, safety concerns due to high crime, and claims of underpaying with an inadequate support structure to alleviate emotional scarring.

Today, some argued that veteran nurses are skipping vacations out of fear of losing their jobs, which could result in the current wage being reset after years of hard work.

Brain drain is not always about money, but also a better work-life balance (spouses, parents, children’s future), with the hopes of a well-prepared system and organizational management, job protection, and consistency.

They discussed how, while missing their own country, sometimes being in isolated locations, and having some difficulty adjusting to the culture, the benefits outweighed the negative aspects. Most of these packages now include their families, and they have the option to change their status from skilled worker visa to permanent residence after a specific period of time in these nations.

The complexity of care

According to healthcare professionals and academics, the aging population will raise the demand for both hospital and home-based care in the next decades, and nurses will become more important to meet those demands.

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These countries will have to cover these vacancies, and the migrating talent will hinder the upward mobility of their medical systems. Many nurses, according to business research, make decent money. Furthermore, this is not a vocation that pays well, such as math, finance, science, or a career in petroleum.

They may need to build a system similar to Cuba’s, and while international travel is prohibited, Cuban doctors and nurses have helped with a variety of diseases and pandemics. Caregivers are becoming increasingly important around the world, regardless of their political system or who paid them for their services.

Poor and emerging countries, as well as several dominant Caribbean islands like Jamaica, Trinidad and Guyana, Belize, Haiti, and other Latin American and African countries, whose long-term economic illnesses have debilitated major public medical institutions for decades, stand to lose a lot from the ongoing brain drain.

Although there are great doctors in private institutions in the region, there have been rumors that numerous practices have closed due to a lack of resources.

There are reports of little modernization throughout the region, but one cannot have faith in the system if some leaders appear to have a “pre-existing condition” that is a defensive and basic question asked about the number of people tested for COVID-19 muted, but stimulus checks are handed out are published, and dissenting views are seen as antagonistic.

Politics should not polarize or abuse caregivers’ experiences, whether they are imported or local. Their roles are vital and progress beyond stopping by a local store to pave a road a week before an election, handing out some money, and then selling a fake sense of community before the next election cycle must end.

Some of these Caribbean nurses may be seen on a bus or subway traveling to their next shift as they assess and test their next step; after all, a nation’s economic strength is determined by how healthy its society is.


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One thought on “Could COVID-19 trigger a bigger ‘Brain Drain’ of Caribbean nurses?

  1. There are huge gaps, especially with the more specialized nurses like ICUs etc – and they are in demand overseas. And how on earth will Jamaica be able to entice qualified nurses back to the island?


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