by Chris Musillo

A new report by the Institute for Immigration Research declares that immigrant labor plays an “outsized and imperative role in the US healthcare system. The Advance Healthcare Network reports that the IIR reports these figures of the population are immigrant labor:

28% of physicians and surgeons
40% of medical scientists in pharmaceutical research and development
50% of medical scientists in biotechnology in states with a strong biotechnology sector
22% of nursing, psychiatric and home health aides
15% of registered nurses

This is in spite of the fact that only 13% of the US population is foreign-born. The IIR is funded by George Mason University.

The AHN write-up quotes Monica Gomez Isaac, executive director of George Mason’s IIR. Ms. Isaac is very positive about the contributions that immigrants make in these fields, but she is incorrect in this quote:

“In the instance of nurses, the lack of an international standard for qualifying registered nurses is absent. The varying degrees of training based on the standards of individual nations make it complex to recruit and fill nursing shortages.”

This is untrue for two reasons. First, there is an international standard for qualifying nurses. All US nurses must pass the NCLEX-RN Exam, which is offered all around the world. Second, the training standards are not the reason for the lack of foreign-born nurses. Between 15-20,000 internationally-trained RNs are registering to take the NCLEX-RN exam every year. In the mid-2000s, that number was even higher.

The problem is the immigrant visa retrogression. A fully-qualified nurse from the Philippines takes 3-5 to get her immigrant visa. A fully-qualified Indian nurse takes 10+ years. If the US Congress would update the immigration laws to allow in more nurses, the bottleneck would fade.

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