Report examines the potential role of foreign-trained immigrant health care professionals, many currently working outside their fields of training and expertise, in alleviating the shortage of health care workers in the U.S.


In this publication, the authors address the following two issues:  first, the extent to which pre-pandemic and COVID-19-related trends will influence the demand for and availability of healthcare workers in the United States; and second, how 270,000 immigrant and refugee health workers whose skills are underutilized might help the country meet that demand. In reaching their conclusions, the authors conducted interviews with more than 50 medical and public-health professionals, hospital administrators, labor market and health policy experts, and representatives of organizations that promote the integration of immigrant professionals. The authors believe that the professional, language, and cultural skills of internationally trained health professionals, many of whom are unemployed or working in low skilled jobs, represent a critical resource for the nation. Their potential contribution is all the more important considering the high numbers of frontline health workers who are burned out and leaving the field, the aging of the U.S. population, and the country’s growing cultural and linguistic diversity. The paper discusses lessons learned during the pandemic by states that used their governors’ executive authority to temporarily suspend or adjust licensing requirements to boost the ranks of available immigrant workers in health services. Although efforts to address licensing, placement, training, and educational barriers facing internationally trained healthcare professionals are primarily the responsibility of state government, the authors argue that the federal government should provide leadership and funding for reforms in this area. (Robert Like, MD, MS)


The Integration of Immigrant Health Professionals: Looking Beyond the COVID-19 Crisis,
Migration Policy Institute, April 2021, 12 pp.
Authors: Jeanne Batalova et al