It’s no news that there is a staffing shortage in healthcare.
Before COVID-19, hospitals struggled to keep up with healthcare demands due to the country’s aging and growing population, as well as increased access to affordable healthcare through the Affordable Care Act. Couple these factors with the increased hospitalizations due to COVID and hospitals find themselves scrambling to find healthcare professionals to care for even the most critically ill patients, while efforts to staff elective surgeries and routine preventative care come to a haul altogether. In turn, each week it seems that another hospital is closing due to the decreased patient volume and revenue. The main problem facing these hospitals is where and how to find providers to help keep their businesses afloat. And while these hospitals continue their search for workers, there’s a group of physicians sitting on the sidelines waiting to be called to action. These are foreign-born, qualified providers who, as of now, are unable to care for patients even as COVID continues to surge.
This issue is what led to the proposal of the Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act, a bipartisan legislation that would recapture 25,000 unused immigrant visas for nurses and 15,000 unused immigrant visas for doctors that Congress has previously authorized and allocate those visas to immigrant doctors and nurses. It was introduced in 2020 to support providers facing staffing shortages due to COVID, but the legislation still hasn’t received a vote. Garnered support is important toward passing the Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act to help bring immigrant healthcare professionals to the frontlines, cultivating resilience in our healthcare system. Expediting visa authorization for up to 40,000 qualified international nurses and physicians is a strong solution for health care staffing shortages.
These immigrants are ready to join the American workforce – not only to combat COVID but to remain at patients’ bedsides for the long term. Our healthcare system lacked this support even before the pandemic. Staffing shortages in healthcare will continue to make headlines until we implement solutions that have the potential to make a big impact. Ram Sanjeev Alur is a prime example of what America has the potential to tap into – read about this immigrant’s perspective on addressing the health care worker shortages, here.