Communities across the United States are facing severe health workforce shortages. The American Hospital Association (AHA) predicts a “shortage of up to 3.2 million health care workers by 2026.” While the shortages will be felt across all health-related occupations, the AHA projects a shortfall of up to 124,000 physicians by 2033, and the health care workforce will need to add approximately 200,000 nurses per year to meet shortages caused by increased demand in addition to a looming wave of retirements. At the same time, Migration Policy Institute estimates that there are 270,000 unemployed or underemployed immigrants with a college degree in medical and health sciences and services.
Immigrant and refugee health workers have the skills, training, and education needed to strengthen our health care workforce. However, they face systemic barriers that prevent their full inclusion in the U.S. workforce. Some of the unique barriers immigrants and refugees encounter when trying to enter the U.S. workforce include lack of access to effective workforce development training, inadequate educational programs, few English language learning opportunities, and limited recognition of credentials earned in another country.
Pending Legislation Aims to Create Career Pathways for Internationally Trained Health Workers
In May, three bills aimed at addressing health care staffing shortages while supporting immigrants and refugees’ entry into the U.S. health care workforce were reintroduced in Congress: the International Medical Graduates Assistance Act, the Immigrants in Nursing and Allied Health Act, and the Professional’s Access to Health Workforce Integration Act.
- The International Medical Graduates Assistance Act seeks to incentivize states to allow international medical graduates (IMGs) to practice under the supervision of a fully licensed physician while they complete the necessary steps to obtain licensure. The bill would also award grants to states to assist IMGs who are going through the licensure process.
- The Immigrants in Nursing and Allied Health Act would create grants for programs that aid with training, licensing, certification, and case management for immigrants interested in entering the health care field. This bill would also open eligibility for the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) to immigrants who are not U.S. citizens.
- The Professional’s Access to Health Workforce Integration Act aims to create grants for new and existing training and counseling opportunities for internationally trained health workers. Under this bill, grants could be used to support employer education, contextualized English language learning, credential evaluation, and more.
This legislative package seeks to expand and strengthen the U.S. health care workforce by investing in a talented, qualified, and diverse workforce.
Inclusive policies like these, that promote a health workforce that is inclusive of immigrants and refugees, can help ensure quality and accessible care to communities across the U.S.