Amid an ongoing nursing shortage, the role of foreign-born healthcare workers has taken center stage. In a recent hearing by the Members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine emphasized the potential of this underutilized workforce.
Senator Kaine called for immigration reform that would increase the number of immigrants in the healthcare workforce, citing as evidence of its potential efficacy the high percentage of foreign-born individuals already in high- and low-skilled healthcare roles.
James Herbert, president of the University of New England, who was present in the hearing, echoed Kaine’s sentiments, advocating for easing regulations that impede immigrants from joining the healthcare sector. The argument is that integrating more foreign-born healthcare workers could help combat the growing staffing crisis in American hospitals and nursing homes.
However, there may be other obstacles to adding foreign workers to long-term care, including the U.S. State Department’s cap on new employment-based visa petitions. This cap, criticized by the two largest U.S. nursing home associations, means that only green card petitions for international nurses filed before June 2022 can progress to the interview stage for EB-3 visas. After that, all other petitions will be paused, possibly until 2025.
Ruth Katz, LeadingAge’s senior vice president for policy, stated that this would limit the number of qualified workers in aging services and harms older adults and families who can’t access necessary care and services as a result.
This comes at a time when international nurses are eager to work in the U.S. Avant Healthcare Professionals, a Florida-based company that recruits and places foreign nurses in U.S. hospitals, reported a boom in requests for international nurses. Requests have surged from 800 pre-pandemic to over 4,000 currently.
With foreign-born workers making up about a sixth of the U.S. nursing workforce, there’s a clear need to resolve the visa backlog and explore immigration reform. As the healthcare sector grapples with this crisis, it’s evident that recruiting foreign-born nurses and cultivating domestic talent need to be part of the solution.
Meanwhile, others feel that the government should emphasize cultivating talent domestically instead. James Hildreth Sr., president and CEO of Meharry Medical College, proposed that we should be investing in domestic talent, particularly by supporting historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). This comes amid concerns over the declining number of black students attending medical school.
Experience Care will continue to provide updates as this story progresses. Readers will also be able to find other relevant information related to the staffing crisis and developments relevant to long-term care leaders.
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