Nigeria Among Top 5 Source Countries for Foreign Educated Nurses in the United States

According to a recent policy paper published in the journal Health Affairs:

Foreign-born or -educated health workers in the US workforce come from more than 135 countries, and the leading countries of origin differ by category of worker.

Foreign-born registered nurses (RNs) represent 12–15 percent of the total number of RNs in the United States. The Philippines produced the largest number of foreign-educated RNs who migrated to the United States, followed by Canada, India, the United Kingdom, and Nigeria.

Top 5 countries for foreign-educated nurses:

  • Philippines: 50.1%
  • Canada: 11.9%
  • India: 9.6%
  • United Kingdom: 6%
  • Nigeria: 2.1%

The proportions are not quite the same for doctors. According to the paper,

International medical graduates (IMGs) including both those born in the United States and those born elsewhere, represent 25.8 percent of the US physician workforce.

The largest group of IMGs is from India, followed by groups from the Philippines, Pakistan, Mexico, and the Dominican Republic.

Top 5 countries for foreign-educated physicians:

  • India: 20.4%
  • Philippines: 8.1%
  • Pakistan: 6%
  • Mexico: 5.4%
  • Dominican Republic: 3.2%

The policy paper recognizes the detriments to the countries of origin, of losing their skilled workers to the United States and other countries:

Ongoing health care workforce shortages limit the development of health systems in low- and middle-income countries and diminish the likelihood that these countries will meet the health-related Millennium Development Goals of the World Health Organization.

In addition, because medical and nursing education in low- and middle-income countries is typically financed by each country’s government, experts have suggested that health worker migration represents a subsidy from low- and middle-income countries to wealthier countries.

It also notes the fact that these countries simultaneously benefit from the migration of their healthcare workers:

 Low- and middle-income countries benefit substantially from remittances—money sent back home—from health care workers employed in other countries. Such remittances provide nearly twice as much funding as total foreign aid to low-income countries.

As an example, in 2005 remittances from abroad accounted for approximately 11 percent of the total gross domestic product (GDP) of the Philippines, 3 percent of the GDP for India, and 2 percent of the GDP for Mexico.


Peggy G. Chen, David I. Auerbach, Ulrike Muench, Leslie A. Curry, and Elizabeth H. Bradley. Policy Solutions to Address The Foreign Educated and Foreign-Born Health Care Workforce in The United States. Health Affairs 32(11): 2013.