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Nurses seek opportunities abroad amid critical staffing crisis

Nurses seek opportunities abroad amid critical staffing crisis

Posted June. 14, 2023 07:56,   

Updated June. 14, 2023 07:56


A growing number of nurses in Korea are reportedly leaving the country in search of better job opportunities and working conditions overseas, particularly in advanced economies with high demand due to the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. This trend raises concerns as the already limited supply of nurses may worsen, leading to inadequate care for patients.

Based on data obtained by The Dong-A Ilbo on Tuesday, the U.S. National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) reported a significant increase in the number of Korean nationals applying for the National Council License Examination (NCLEX) in 2022. The figures surged to 1,816 applicants, marking a more than two-fold jump from 738 in 2018.

For the first three months of the year, Korean applicants for the exam totaled 1,758, pointing towards a record high. The data only encompass first-time applicants, suggesting that the actual count could be higher if repeat test-takers were included.

Korean nurses are seeking better opportunities overseas due to poor working conditions and inadequate pay. A Korean applicant who secured a job in the U.S. after passing the exam mentioned that the workload there is about half compared to Korea, yet they receive four times higher pay. Some nurses also leave Korea to escape the prevalent workplace bullying culture, known as "taewoom," specifically targeting nurses in hospitals.

Mounting concerns arise within medical circles as the nurse shortage poses a risk to the emergency care system. A mid-sized hospital in Seoul had to close its intensive care unit two years ago due to the shortage of nurses. Despite ongoing efforts, the hospital remains unable to reopen the unit due to its inability to hire additional nurses.

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