Can the private education sector help overcome nursing shortages? A synthesis of evidence from Thailand, Kenya and India

July 2016
Rebecca Wolfe, Duane Blaauw

Nursing shortages are a critical health workforce challenge and are likely to be exacerbated in coming years by changing population demographics and healthcare needs. As pressures grow, shortages will intensify the unequal distribution of nurses both within and between countries. 

Currently, many countries are experiencing a rapid expansion of private nurse training institutions. These institutions have the potential to contribute positively to local and national health systems by increasing the supply of nurses, possibly even in rural areas where shortages are most severe. However, little is known about private training institutions (e.g. their syllabus, the quality of training, how they are regulated), or about the job choices of their graduates.

RESYST Consortium has conducted research in Thailand, Kenya and India to compare public and private nurse training institutions, and investigate the extent to which the type of training institution influences their job choices. In March 2016, a meeting was held in Bangkok, Thailand, bringing together researchers and policymakers to share new evidence and exchange experiences on the topic. This report synthesises the research findings that were shared during the workshop, and outlines recommendations that were jointly developed by researchers and policymakers.

Key cross-country findings

  • In recent years there has been a rapid expansion of private training institutions.
  • Private institutions are unlikely to reduce nurse shortages in under-served areas.
  • There are variations in the quality of private training institutions and in the quality of the graduates produced.
  • In some countries there is poor absorption of nurses into the public health sector.
Health workforce Private sector Thailand Kenya India