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Kaine Introduces Legislation to Address Health Care Workforce Shortages

Bill would help internationally educated health care professionals overcome barriers to entering health care workforce

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine introduced the Welcome Back to the Health Care Workforce Act, legislation to address health care workforce shortages in Virginia and across the country. The bill would help internationally educated health care professionals overcome common barriers to entering the health care workforce in the United States.

According to the Migration Policy Institute (MPI), about two million college-educated immigrants in the U.S. are either unemployed or underemployed, and approximately 270,000 of these individuals hold health-related degrees but are working below their level of training or are not working in health care. The Welcome Back to the Health Care Workforce Act would help tap the talents of these individuals—who are living in the U.S. and legally able to work—and make it easier for them to enter the health care workforce at a level commensurate with their education, skills, and experiences.

“I recently met with students who shared with me their frustrations of immigrating to the United States, having a degree and significant experience, and not being able to find a job in their field that’s commensurate with their skills,” said Kaine. “At a time when I’m hearing from hospitals and other health care employers about how difficult it is to find workers, we should be making it easier for these individuals to enter the health care workforce. I’m proud to introduce this bill to address common barriers that internationally educated health care professionals face and help ensure that our communities benefit from their many talents.”

"The Virginia Rural Health Association applauds Senator Kaine in his efforts to address the healthcare workforce shortage. It is essential to have many paths to careers in healthcare, especially in our rural communities,” said Beth O’Connor, Executive Director of the Virginia Rural Health Association.

Specifically, the Welcome Back to the Health Care Workforce Act would create a grant program administered by the Health Resources and Services Administration to:

  • Support communities in developing local- and state-level partnerships between health care organizations, community-based organizations, higher education, and state and local governments to help connect internationally educated health care professionals with the resources they need to enter the health care workforce.
  • Address barriers internationally educated health care professionals trying to enter the health care workforce face, by
    • Assisting with obtaining overseas academic or training records and providing support throughout the U.S. licensing and credentialing process;
    • Developing work-readiness, peer support, mentoring, and culturally competent career counseling opportunities;
    • Establishing opportunities to complete necessary prerequisite courses, continuing education training, and English-language learning; and
    • Supporting growth opportunities to address classroom and clinical instructor shortages.
  • Give priority to partnerships focused on supporting health care workers serving rural communities or filling a workforce shortage within a community.

The bill is supported by: Advocates for Community Health, Afghan Cultural Society, American Geriatrics Society, American Public Health Association, American Seniors Housing Association, Americas Essential Hospitals, Arkansas United, Association of Clinicians for the Underserved, Association of Dental Support Organizations, Ballad Health, California Immigrants Resources Center, CGFNS International, Chemeketa Community College, Federation of American Hospitals, Gerontological Society of America, Global Cleveland, IMPRINT Coalition, Intealth, International Institute of Buffalo, Jewish Family Service of San Diego, LeadingAge, Lifepoint Health, Lutheran Family Services Rocky Mountains, Medicos Unidos Venezuela, National AHEC Organization, National Association for Geriatric Education, National Association of Community Health Centers, National Association of Hispanic Nurses, National Association of Indian Nurses of America, National Association of Rural Health Clinics, National Black Nurses Association, National Immigration Forum, National League for Nursing, National Rural Health Association, National Skills Coalition, Pars Equality Center, Los Angeles, Philippine Nurses Association of America, Portland Refugee Support Group, Providence Public School, Restore Education, RUSA LGBTQ, Spring Institute for Intercultural Learning, Synergy Texas, Talent Beyond Boundaries, The International Medical Graduates Academy (TIMGA), The Welcoming Center, Tiyya Foundation, UnidosUS, Upwardly Global, US Together, Virginia Rural Health Association, Hospital and Healthcare Association, Welcome Back Initiative, Welcoming City, and World Education Services.

Full text of the bill is available here.