Do foreign-born health workers compete with native-born workers or reduce labor shortages?

We see foreign-born nurses, doctors, personal health aides, and medical scientists all the time. Do you think they take jobs away from native-born workers or primarily help to reduce labor shortages? It’s not that simple, given the growth of the healthcare sector and trends to streamline physician care.

A June 2016 study reported that:

• 42% of the researchers at the top seven cancer research centers are foreign-born.
• 23% of personal care aides are foreign-born with more than 45% in California and New York. A fifth of these foreign-born workers are estimated to be undocumented.
• 15% of registered nurses are foreign-born; the most important countries of origin are Philippines (33%), India (6%), Jamaica (5%), Canada (4%) and Nigeria (4%).
• 27% of MDs are foreign-born persons who obtained their medical degree outside the U.S. They generally have to participate in additional medical training in the U.S.  with a J-1 visa. (The visa program is described here.)

The American Medical Association created a section for International Medical Graduates (IMG) in 1997. These physicians comprise about 8% of AMA membership.

The AMA reports that the IMG population represents 37% of total physicians in internal medicine; 28% anesthesiology; 32% in psychiatry; and 28% in pediatrics. 20% of IMGs are from India.

Is there a doctor shortage that foreign-born physicians can help to ameliorate ? Here is a report that says no if doctors organize their practices better and delegate work to other health professionals. The Health Affairs article by Linda Green on which the report is based is here.


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