Recruiting Foreign Healthcare Workers

By Michael Klazema on 5/21/2020

We could soon see the arrival of tens of thousands of foreign healthcare workers in the United States thanks to a bipartisan effort in the United States Congress to issue more visas for immigrant doctors and nurses. If passed, the legislation has the potential to bring to 40,000 healthcare workers to the United States from other countries to help the domestic healthcare system in the fight against COVID-19.

In this post, we will explore what hospitals and healthcare systems need to do to recruit and hire immigrant healthcare workers, including understanding legislative shifts and running proper healthcare background checks.

The first step is to monitor the legislation. The congressional effort was born, in part, from fears that U.S. healthcare systems might buckle under the strain of COVID-19. In mid-April, the CDC published data showing that more than 9,000 United States healthcare workers had contracted COVID-19 in their efforts to treat the disease. 27 had died, and several of the others were forced to take time away from work.

These factors have put hospitals in COVID-19 epicenters in a difficult position—understaffed and in need. Strategies so far have included calling on retired doctors and nurses and recruiting students not yet finished with their medical training.

The “Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act” would speed up the approval of existing visa applications from immigrant doctors and nurses. Rather than creating brand-new visas, the resolution would reallocate authorized but unused visas for medical purposes. In total, the strategy would reallocate 15,000 visas for immigrant doctors and 25,000 for immigrant nurses. These individuals could come to the United States and fill jobs at overstrained hospitals.

Precisely how hospitals would recruit these workers is not yet clear. Healthcare workers approved for visas would likely be directed toward the most desperately in-need areas and healthcare systems throughout the country. The many healthcare associations that are in support of the legislation—including the American Medical Association, the American Hospital Association, and the American Organization for Nursing Leadership—could potentially help hospitals recruit and hire reinforcements.

Regarding healthcare background checks, the Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act sets forth requirements that foreign healthcare professionals must meet to be approved for a visa. These requirements include meeting licensing standards and passing both criminal history checks and national security background checks. These checks would occur at the national level before any visas were issued.

Hospital systems can provide extra protection to their patients by running in-house checks. At, we are available to help healthcare organizations develop effective background check strategies during this difficult time and far beyond it. Contact us today to learn more.



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