With 25% of physicians born outside of US, some turn to immigration reform to remedy physician shortage

A substantial proportion of the healthcare workforce in the U.S. was born in another country. As concerns of the looming physician shortage heighten, some industry observers are highlighting the link between better immigration reform and expanding the ranks of foreign-born clinicians, according to Forbes.

Currently, more than 25 percent of physicians and surgeon in the U.S. are foreign-born. Additionally, roughly one-fifth of nurses, home health and psychiatric aids, and more than one-sixth of dentists, pharmacists and clinical technicians were born in other countries, as of 2010. Across the industry, foreign-born workers account for 16 percent of all healthcare professionals, meaning sustaining the system depends on a functioning immigration model.

U.S.-born physicians often pursue more profitable specializations, leaving generalist positions like family medicine, internal medicine and pediatrics more likely to be filled by foreign-born physicians, according to the report. Therefore, foreign-born practitioners are key to addressing the primary care physician shortage, particularly in underserved communities.

However, the federal immigration system, as well as complex state-level credentialing requirements, pose many barriers for immigrant physicians seeking employment in the U.S. Visa limitations, additional educational requirements, licensure, relocation, lower pay and xenophobia can all pose additional obstacles.

What's more, not embracing the diversity that comes with foreign-born physicians prevents hospitals and health systems from capitalizing on those physicians' linguistic and cultural assets, which are invaluable to providing quality care in diverse communities, according to the report.


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