You’ve probably read about it or know the crisis all too well, but the physician shortage is here. Yet, there are qualified foreign physicians among us disguised in different professions wanting to help. Could the solution of this national crisis be right in front of us?
The career path to becoming a physician is no easy task. There are countless exams to take, a residency to complete, all of which takes at least a decade to complete. Foreign physicians have to go through a similar process as well. But a decision to practice in the U.S. leads to having to repeat some of those steps. Almost adding another decade to the process. So how did we ever get to this point of rejecting help where help is needed?
Foreign Physicians Find Themselves Back at Square One
Let’s start from beginning from their perspective: You have an American citizenship and permission to work in the U.S., so you immediately start the job process. You apply to verify your medical school transcripts and diplomas. All the while you take the United States Medical-Licensing Exam (USMLE) with such confidence. Because after-all, you are doctor. At some point you must obtain American recommendation letters. Naturally, they require actual work or volunteering at a medical facility or organization (New York Times).
This is where most have to make the impossible happen, because volunteer work won’t pay the bills. Then again, training is unlikely to happen because of the capped residency slots. And yes, it is still required of doctors who’ve done their residency in a different country. Canada is the only exception.
And as a physician, you should know that you won’t feel so lucky after securing a residency. You can thank the typical 80-hour work week for that. Now, if you acquired a work visa, know that you may very well likely have to pack up and return to your home country after your training.
At this point, you are probably wondering if America is the land of opportunity. But, that is the reality foreign physicians have to accept. And the majority have fallen short, and given up the dream. Forced to accept other professions, such as, nursing or teaching.
Time to Swallow Our Pride
It is true that there are many foreigners today that are able to go through this extensive process successfully. But it is not nearly enough to meet this country’s demand. Most of those lucky few are being matched to underserved facilities, mostly in primary care where help is most needed. And yes, allowing more foreign physicians to practice will not completely solve the physician shortage crisis. It would take a combination of efforts, but it’s a start.
Most medical experts agree that the U.S. holds an unmatched high quality of standards. Yet, those standards are creating even higher hurdles for foreign physicians wanting to practice in the U.S..