Immigrants are an integral part of our health care system. I’ll let the statistics speak for themselves:
Nationally, 1 in 4 physicians, 1 in 5 nurses and home health aides and 1 in 6 dentists & pharmacists are foreign-born. (Reference source 1, source 2 ) Women account for 75% of these foreign-born health care employees and are the majority gender (among immigrants) in every health care field except as physician and surgeons.(ref)
In addition to front-line clinicians, health care researchers play a vital role in the study of disease and the development new treatments and drugs. Nationally, 24.89 percent of medical scientists working in the US are foreign-born. (ref)
Data from 2014 shows 24.2% of US physicians graduated from an international medical school, reflecting a population that is predominately immigrant.(ref) Among medical residents and fellows, 25.4% attended an international medical school.(ref)
Most foreign-born health care workers become naturalized US citizens–2/3 (66 percent) have obtained citizenship.(ref)
Why do these statistics matter to patients?
One additional statistic sums up why immigration policy should matter to all patients, of all political perspectives: Current estimates suggest that the United States will face a shortage of 46,100 to 90,400 physicians by 2025.(ref) This figure is only physicians–when you account for shortages in nursing and home health, the problem become far more acute and hits rural and traditionally under-served areas the hardest. Quite simply, US-born students are not entering the health care professions at rates high enough to meet the patient population demand.
The result should be common sense…no matter how great your insurance might be, if there isn’t a health professional readily available, you will not be able to access timely care. Regardless of how you feel about immigration policy politically, your health and ability to access health care will be impacted by both more restrictive and unpredictable immigration laws. It is a bi-partisan statistical fact that the degree of quality care we have come to expect from our health institutions depends heavily upon foreign-born professionals. To ignore this obvious truth is to put patient lives at greater risk.