We found that 166(60.4%) of the medical students and house officers responding to our survey intended to travel abroad for specialty training (54.9%) or subspecialty training(5.5%). These results are in line with survey of 166 final year students of Indian medical schools in 2004 where 59% thought of training abroad [8
]. Another study concluded that about one half of South African medical graduates migrate [9
]. On the other hand this percentage is lower than that reported in studies from Lebanon (96%) [7
]as well as in the only published study from Pakistan in two private medical Institutions of Karachi where 95% and 65% intended to train abroad [10
]. We feel the difference may be because of difference in socio economic background of the two groups Medical graduates belonging to private medical colleges (which have a higher tuition fee in Pakistan) who are likely to belong to more affluent and financially sound families have the resources and the contacts to train abroad.
The intention to migrate abroad of significant proportion of health professionals is of concern and threatens the ability of Pakistan to meet the health care needs of their own population. As migratory flows may increase in future, [11
] policy initiatives are needed to counter the effects on local healthcare sector.
Top destination for our respondents are the same as reported previously in literature on this topic, i.e. United States, United kingdom, Australia, Gulf countries and Canada. Recently trend of migration towards Gulf countries appears to have increased perhaps due to Memorandum of understanding signed between the health ministry of Saudi Arabia and College of Physicians & Surgeons (The post graduate training authority) in Pakistan and facilitation of the process by the Pakistani Government.
Desire to settle abroad to more affluent nations is generally considered and assumed to be the main motivation of people who migrate abroad. However we found that only around 10% of our respondents wanted to settle abroad but would rather prefer to either return directly to Pakistan or stay temporarily abroad before returning to Pakistan. This implies that we need to address the factors that compel the medical health professionals to migrate abroad in the first instance and also those which may lead to change in their intentions to return or settle in Pakistan. A small study from Pakistan showed people funded for a doctorate returning and on return facing major non financial disincentives for good performance [12
]. Also many doctors who do return with high technical skills find very few satisfying jobs available to them which further acts as a barrier in their return to homeland. Thus brain drain is compounded by the fact that emigrating skilled workers are more likely to stay in their host country.
Results of the study showed that respondents wish to migrate due to impact of training abroad on future career, to gain competitive advantage in the saturated job market, as well as to have financial security, better working conditions and a better training experience. This study results fit well with previous studies which have cited financial factors, poor working conditions, heavy workload, lack of training opportunities, a lack of sufficient opportunities for promotion etc [10
] as motivating factors for migration.
Salary of Postgraduate medical students in Pakistan is very poor. Availability of few training positions for number of medical graduates means many people work without pay to gain required experience for examinations. Similarly working conditions in post graduate medical education (PGME) In Pakistan leaves much to be desired. Students intend to migrate not only for monetary gains but also because of high prevalence of bullying [15
] and to escape the hierarchical system which is in place in majority of medical Institutions in Pakistan.
The complex issue of migration of medical graduates does not have a readymade solution. All the stake holders i.e the Governments of the source country and the host country, professional unions, International bodies, and medical workforce in the country need to focus and take some bold steps to prevent or decrease unwanted migration of bright students from the country. Partnerships between Institutions in developed and developing countries are needed to encourage doctors to return [16
]. Review of pay structure, improvement in quality of training in Pakistan and making work environment more conducive to post graduate trainees are some of the steps which may help in dealing with physicians' migration.
In terms of limitations our study had a small sample size and involved only one site thus results may not be generalizable however we hope that our study has yielded insights into factors responsible for doctors migration from Pakistan. Strengths of the study included good response rate as well as being the only study from Pakistan which along with respondents' plans to train abroad also assessed their post-training migration intentions.