Migration plans of medical university students and their actual implementation. Will they really leave?



Migrations are social processes arousing interest both in Poland and worldwide. Their underlying reasons can be diverse, although economic matters (willingness to improve the living quality) and those related to obtaining safety for oneself and family members (escape from war, prosecution, discrimination) continue to be the most frequent ones. For many years researchers have been trying to understand migration processes and they have been proposing various theoretical approaches, indispensable for the making of rational decisions related to migration policy. One of the research currents concerns migration of highly-skilled people. Although the scale of specialists’ migration compared to other professional groups is low, one needs to be aware that e.g. migration of even only several dozens of medical doctors of rare speciality may pose a serious problem for the health care system of the country they left. We have been experiencing this problem in Poland.

Emigration of medical personnel remains a challenge and one of the reasons why the number of medical doctors per 100 thousand residents is in our country at one of the lowest levels in Europe. The problem of specialists’ emigrations concerns also other professions, but migrations of medical personnel arouse many controversies worldwide and are a subject-matter of actions of international organizations, which create – among others – codes of ethics intended to prevent depriving some states or even regions of the world of access to medical care (e.g. the Global Code of Practice on the International Recruitment of Health Personnel developed by the World Health Organization).

At the same time the COVID-19 pandemic revealed huge shortages in health care systems, even in the most-developed states. Therefore, one needs to assume that the competition for health personnel is going to intensify in the coming years, and consequently the migration processes of this category of people are going to become increasingly common. Therefore, when following those processes it is extremely important to supplement the existing knowledge about the reasons among medical personnel to leave, stay or return. It is central to understand whether a declaration to leave or stay at a given moment is going to be delivered in practice, and – if not – what influences a change of plans. This will help to capture the decisive factors for the making of migrations decisions, and consequently to explain better than before the migration processes of medical personnel. This project concerns exactly these issues and focuses on the migration plans of Polish and foreign students of the last years of medical studies in Poland and practical materialization of those plans after two years, i.e. in the period when they already entered the labor market and were able to verify in practice their preconceptions about the professional career of a medical doctor in Poland.

Poland is a very interesting subject-matter for research in this regard. On the one hand, we are dealing with the emigration of medical doctors and nurses to other highly-developed states of the world (OECD) and on the other with a growing number of foreigners studying at Polish medical universities. Therefore, one can assume that by learning about the factors determining the decision to leave or stay both among Poles and foreigners, it will be possible to create a catalogue of actions that can be taken in the field of various public policies so as to influence migration decisions of medical university graduates. The theoretical basis for this research is comprised by an expanded methodology based on an analysis of various types of factors determining migrations. Those are push and pull factors, factors that determine staying in the state where one obtained qualifications, staying in the state to which one emigrated and, last but not least, those determining a return to the state of origin. There are also so-called intervening factors, i,e, for example difficulties or facilitations resulting from existing laws (e.g. recognition of qualifications of doctors in the EU, which reduces migration barriers). In many countries, including Poland, a market of intermediaries has evolved which aims to find medical university graduates and/or doctors willing to leave and help them in settling in the receiving states. Knowledge about this so-called „migration infrastructure” and its role in the making of emigration decisions is still highly superficial and needs to be further investigated.

To sum up, the results of the research to be performed under the described project will help to clarify the process of making migration decisions by students of the last years of medical studies in Poland and verify them after two years. An additional objective is to obtain knowledge about the functioning of the so-called „migration infrastructure” in the field of health care, which aims to facilitate the emigration of medical personnel.


2021 - 2025

Source of funding

Narodowe Centrum Nauki (Kraków, Polska) Grant: 2020/39/B/HS5/00464