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Investigating the Irish brain drain: factors influencing migration intentions among medical students

  • Kevin Kitt1,
  • Pishoy Gouda1,
  • David S Evans2,
  • Deirdre Goggin3,
  • Deirdre McGrath4,
  • Jason Last5,
  • Martina Hennessy6,
  • Richard Arnett7,
  • Siun O'Flynn8,
  • Fidelma Dunne9 and
  • Diarmuid O'Donovan10
BMC Proceedings20159(Suppl 7):A12

Published: 27 October 2015


Medical StudentFree TextPersonal DevelopmentText DataPolitical Interest


Ireland has the highest level of medical emigration in Europe with an increasing demand for physicians worldwide [1, 2]. This has received considerable public and political interest. However, few studies have described the migration intentions of medical students at the undergraduate level [3]. Our study aimed to describe the migration intentions of Irish medical students by nationality and identify unique factors, “push factors”, that influence their decisions.


Cross-sectional online survey of medical students in Ireland. Pearson's Chi square was utilised to determine the significance of differences in migration intentions and factors influencing migration. Free text data was thematically analysed.


Of 2273 respondents, 67% were Irish, 5.3% were from other EU countries and 27.8% were from Non-EU countries. 88% of Irish students identified that they were definitely or contemplating going abroad following graduation/intern year, compared to 80% of Non-EU students and 88% of other EU students (P<0.001). Training and career aspects, personal development and financial reasons were identified as key “push” factors influencing migration intentions.


It would be expected that a large proportion of EU and non-EU students would migrate from Ireland following training. However, it is alarming that the intention to migrate is significantly greater among Irish students than non-EU students. As eight out of ten of all students are considering migration, initiatives to support retention should target all nationalities and their unique “push” factors that have been identified.

Authors’ Affiliations

National University of Ireland, Galway, Ireland
Senior Research Officer, Department of Public Health, Galway, Ireland
Assistant Staff Officer, Department of Public Health, Galway, Ireland
Director of Education, Graduate Entry Medical School, University of Limerick, Limerick, Ireland
Associate Dean for Programmes and Educational Innovation, UCD School of Medicine & Medical Science, Dublin, Ireland
Associate Professor, Education Division, School of Medicine, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland
Associate Director of Quality Enhancement Office, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, Dublin, Ireland
Head of Medical Education, University College Cork, Cork, Ireland
Personal Professor/Consultant Endocrinologist, College of Medicine Nursing and Health Sciences (CMNHS), Galway, Ireland
Senior Lecturer in Social and Preventive Medicine, Galway, Ireland


  1. García-Pérez MA, Amaya C, Otero Á: Physicians' migration in Europe: an overview of the current situation. BMC Health Serv Res. 2007, 7: 201-PubMedPubMed CentralView ArticleGoogle Scholar
  2. Scheffler R, Liu J, Kinfu Y, Dal Poz MR: Forecasting the global shortage of physicians: an economic- and needs-based approach. Bulletin of the World Health Organization. 2008, 86: 516-523.PubMedPubMed CentralView ArticleGoogle Scholar
  3. Burke C: Survey of Final Year Medical Students 2012: will we go or will we stay?. 2012, 1-46.Google Scholar


© Kitt et al. 2015

This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.