Aim and objectives. Migration of health workers to work abroad calls for increasing the supply of trained graduates. However, until now the professional mobility and age structure of nurses has not been studied or taken into account in Estonia while planning the quota for nursing schools. Since the 2000s the goal has been set to have 9 nurses working in the health care system in Estonia per 1000 population, but the actual rate has stayed close to 6 per 1000 during the last decade. The objective of this study was to estimate the number and age structure of the nurses workforce in diferent scenarios, which take into account changes in the supply and professional mobility.
Materials and methods. Individual data on nurses, registered with the Health Board in April 2012, was matched to that in April 2010, in order to evaluate the dynamics of the nurses working in Estonia, and subsequently linked to the list of the nurses who graduated from the Tartu Health Care College and the Tallinn Health Care College in 2008 – 2011. This data was used to calculate age-specific annual probabilities to work as a nurse in Estonia, or to leave abroad, and to develop a simple model for predicting the nurses workforce in case of different scenarios.
Results. There were 8742 nurses and midwives working in Estonian health care in 2012 while 5% of them were aged 65 years or older. Annual probability of nurses leaving Estonia decreased from 2% to 0.4% in parallel with increasing age. In case the migration remains at the same level and 400 students start studies annually, the number of nurses working in Estonia will be at the same as of now. In order to achieve the level of 9 nurses per 1000 population by 2032 (OECD and European average in 2010), each year 450–500 nursing graduates should start working in Estonian health care, and the annual admission of students should be 700–800.
Conclusion. In order to achieve the European average level of nurses working in Estonia health care system by 2032, it is necessary to double the annual admission to nursing schools in hope that the professional mobility of nurses will not increase.