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The research, led by NUI Galway and published in open access journal Human Resources for Health, included over 2,000 medical students in Ireland, of whom 1,519 were Irish. Of these, 88 per cent indicated they were either definitely migrating or contemplating migrating following graduation or completion of intern year
The students were from across the country’s six medical schools.
The main reasons cited for possible migration included perceptions regarding career opportunities (85 per cent), working conditions in Ireland (83 per cent) and lifestyle (80 per cent).
Mr Pishoy Gouda, a final year medical student at NUI Galway and principal investigator of the study, commented: “We have known for some time, from previous research, that a significant percentage of qualified doctors are leaving the country. This research confirms this, with 34 per cent definitely planning to migrate, but also shows a widespread culture of ‘intention to emigrate’ with a further 53 per cent contemplating it. These migration intentions are a major concern to the sustainability the Irish healthcare workforce.”
He said this outflow “may represent a financial loss to the Irish healthcare system”, when one considers costs involved in training medical students, recruiting replacements and service delivery constraints if replacements cannot be found.
In other findings, nearly two-thirds of students identified that they did not have a great understanding of the training following graduation and a third of the students surveyed also indicated that they had a poor understanding of how the Irish healthcare system worked.
According to Dr Diarmuid O’Donovan, Senior Lecturer in Social and Preventive Medicine at NUI Galway, who supervised the study: “Interventions are needed including providing a better understanding of career structures and opportunities, and of the changing organisation of the health service. Changes are needed in order to retain medical graduates and attract those who have already emigrated to return.”
As the shortage of doctors is so great in Ireland, Mr Gouda suggested that postgraduate opportunities should also be made more accessible to non-EU students who are trained in Ireland.
Alongside NUI Galway, the report was co-authored by staff at the Department of Public Health, HSE West, RCSI, UL, UCC, UCD, and TCD.