The press encouraged the exodus of Spanish nurses to the United Kingdom during the last economic crisis

Carolina Moreno-Castro, professor of Journalism at the University of Valencia (UV) and researcher at the ScienceFlows group, concluded in a study, after analysing the most read, on paper, general information newspapers between 2007 and 2015 (El País, El Mundo, ABC and La Razón), that they promoted the “push factors” for the nurses exodus. Carolina Moreno

The study in which Carolina Moreno-Castro, full professor of the Language Theory and Communication Sciences Department of the UV, together with Miguel Rodríguez-Arrastia and Carmen Ropero-Padilla, professors of the University of Almeria, evaluate how journalistic stories prompted the departure of Spanish nurses to the United Kingdom since the beginning of the economic crisis, in 2007, and until 2015.
The article, «Estudio de las noticias publicadas en prensa del éxodo de enfermeras españolas al Reino Unido», published in the journal Gaceta Sanitaria, states that the ideological line of the analysed media did not promote any kind of discourse, since the tone of 97% of the 77 texts analysed was negative. That is to say, in these journalistic pieces the idea was transmitted that the group of the nurses was precarious and that it did not have labour expectations within Spain.

These news featured the life stories of emigrant nurses, who sought better job opportunities outside of the country, as the main sources of information on journalistic stories. That was how, according to the researchers, the media issued a clear message: emigrating was the solution. Only 11 of the 77 journalistic articles highlighted the good academic training of nurses, as the reason for the exodus, which Rodríguez-Arrastia, Moreno-Castro and Ropero-Padilla interpreted as the “official discourse”, majority in the articles.
“The image projected by the media and social networks on a topic causes various reactions in public opinion. In the case of health and health policy, it has a greater impact, given the human implications. From the communication sciences the call effect of the media was studied, but there were no studies on the push factors of the nursing staff exodus from Spain to the United Kingdom”, says Moreno-Castro. According to the journalism full professor, “the testimonies collected in the press, in the future, with a diachronic vision, could contribute to the reconstruction of the history of nursing in Spain, as a documentary source”.

ABC was the newspaper that published most texts –between 2007 and 2015– on this subject, with a total of 31 articles, followed by El País, El Mundo and La Razón. For the research team, “the volume of news published is quite relevant. The news about migrant nurses had an important place in the media agenda, rather than the emigration of other professionals”.

Only one of the articles analysed, and therefore with little impact on the media, presented the departure of the nurses as a desire to seek adventure. It was as of 2015, with the uncertainty of Brexit, when the media began to introduce reflections on the consequences that the United Kingdom exit of the European Union could have on the group of emigrant nurses, specifically in thirteen articles analysed.


El País, El Mundo, ABC and La Razón were the four newspapers selected to carry out the work, since, according to the General Media Studies of 2007, these were the newspapers with the highest national audience with print edition.
The research team selected three descriptors for the work: “emigration nurses”, “exodus nurses” and “Spanish nurses in the United Kingdom”, which resulted in 9,559 journalistic texts. Eliminated the noise and the duplicities, the narrowing down gave 484 texts. Of them, a new filtering was created, with the terms “emigrants”, “emigrant nurses” and “sanitary emigrants”, of which 77 documents were analysed.

This work has been developed within the framework of the Scientific Culture Research Group-ScienceFlows and is part of the Cultural Narratives of Crisis and Renewal project, of the Horizon 2020 research and innovation program of the European Union.


Rodríguez-Arrastia M. et al. (2017). «Estudio de las notícies publicades en prensa del éxode de enfermeres españolas al Reino Unido». Gac. Sanit.


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