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Nursing shortage in Taiwan worsens as 5,000 leave annually

Low pay, night shifts lead nurses to quit hospitals and seek other employment

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MOHW says skilled nurses are in short supply. (CNA photo)

MOHW says skilled nurses are in short supply. (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — According to the latest statistics from the Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW), there are only 186,000 nurses in the domestic healthcare system, with losses of about 5,000 nurses each year.

The biggest reason nurses are leaving the profession is scheduling, which involves a three-shift rotation, including night shifts, and low wages. This has resulted in an exodus of nurses to private clinics, long-term care institutions, or overseas assignments in the United States, where they can earn NT$1.5 million (US$46,700), about three times the salary in Taiwan, per UDN.

"After obtaining a nursing license, there are many choices for nurses," said MOHW Department of Nursing and Health Care Director Tsai Shu-feng (蔡淑鳳). She said those who obtain a nursing license can expect their salary to increase dramatically.

About 10% go into other professions like pharmaceutical companies, but about 85% to 90% enter clinical practice, she said. However, many are inclined to leave their jobs after an average of ten years because of issues associated with work-life balance, she added.

According to statistics, nurses most likely to depart the profession are about 30 to 35 years old, with good physical strength and abundant nursing experience. Tsai said this is also the main period for women to have children and begin concentrating on family life, which can be difficult given the nursing profession's long hours and low wages.

For this reason, many nurses choose to work as nannies or home nurses with better hours and higher pay. Some even obtain a U.S.-registered nurse license, making it easy to find employment overseas.

One local nurse, Yang Yi-jing (楊依靜), left a surgical intensive care unit and began working for a medical group that targeted VIPs, providing shorter working hours and high hourly wages. She said she had a heavy workload in the hospital and found it difficult to support herself.

With a rapidly aging population, many nurses have also taken up home care, like Huang (黃), who retired from a medical center in Taipei and now works as a caregiver. She said her services are in great demand, and the salary is equivalent, with no need to work night shifts.

In addition, a nurse surnamed Lin (林), who has been in a hospital's pediatric intensive care unit for more than ten years, has switched to becoming a nanny. She quit her nursing job to concentrate on her studies, but her friend's child was born prematurely.

Due to her experience in pediatrics, she was entrusted with taking care of the baby, who was only 36 weeks old, unexpectedly becoming a nanny and enjoying a higher salary without work night shifts.