Research: The Integration of Immigrant Health Prof..

Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States with full force in March 2020, powerful images of health-care workers under incredible strain have come from communities across the country. At the same time, the public-health crisis has hit some much harder than others, including racial and ethnic minority communities and rural areas that have long had more limited access to health care.

This issue brief looks at both how the pandemic has affected the U.S. health-care workforce and how other, longer-term trends are shaping the sector’s future. These include the aging and increasing diversity of the U.S. population, and the upcoming retirement of many health-care professionals. In considering both sets of issues, the brief looks at how the underutilized professional expertise and cultural and linguistic skills of internationally trained health professionals (and some U.S.-trained professionals) could be better leveraged to meet current and future demand for care. This includes about 270,000 underemployed or out-of-work immigrant and refugee health professionals, according to MPI estimates.

Drawing on insights from interviews and a forum with medical and public-health professionals, hospital administrators, labor market and health policy experts, and representatives of organizations that promote immigrant integration, the brief also looks at the promise and pitfalls of efforts early in the pandemic to boost the ranks of available health workers by creating opportunities for internationally trained professionals to practice during the health emergency. These efforts offer important lessons for building a more flexible and resilient health-care workforce ahead.

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