Cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. are continuing to rise with the country reporting new cases each day. The U.S. now has the most cases in the world, surpassing Italy and China.
Despite individuals taking proper precautions, like social distancing and practicing good personal hygiene, healthcare workers are continuing to pull long shifts to care for the sick and dying. This is putting a toll on both their mental and physical health. Some healthcare workers treating COVID-19 victims are contracting the disease, further diminishing the number of physicians and nurses available to offer their services at a time when they are needed most.
To provide aid and relief for U.S. healthcare professionals, many argue that international medical graduates, medical students, and retired healthcare professionals in the U.S. should be able to assist in providing healthcare during this time of need. In the following post, we outline how these populations can be of service to the U.S. We also highlight ways organizations and individuals are pushing for the implementation of such ideas.
International Medical Graduates
At present, there are more than 65,000 international medical graduates living in the U.S. Despite holding degrees from medical institutions in other counties, these individuals are unable to practice in the U.S. as they are not licensed here. These 65,000 could help, making it so that physicians currently practicing are not working overtime. IMGs could be caring for the sick and saving lives.
With the spread of COVID-19 persisting on the east coast, both New York and New Jersey have passed executive orders to temporarily allow international medical graduates with at least one year of U.S. graduate medical education to practice medicine. Although this is a step in the right direction there is still a large amount of IMGs that could help out but do not have the required year of U.S. graduate medical education.
Other organizations, like the American Medical Association, are advocating to bring international physicians to the U.S. during this time of crisis. While a concrete idea on the surface, it ignores the reality of current COVID-19 related travel restrictions. Due to these restrictions, those with international medical degrees who are already in the U.S. are a more likely alternative.
To make the above possible, we at AMOpportunities created a petition which calls on the U.S. healthcare system to allow IMGs currently in the U.S. to provide medical aid during this time. At present, our petition has nearly 7,000 signatures with a goal of 10,000. Once we reach the goal, we can take the petition to the U.S. government for consideration. Although our petition has gained much traction and been featured on prominent websites like Buzzfeed, we still need more signature to enact this change!
Want to help the Petition reach the U.S. government? Join the cause!
U.S. Medical Students
With schools closing indefinitely due to CDC recommendations, many medical students have plenty of free time on their hands. While they can’t practice medicine just yet, many students are finding other ways to help out. They are doing small things to improve the lives of patients, healthcare workers, and their communities during this time. Medical students are offering to babysit children of healthcare workers and pick up groceries for the elderly and immunocompromised.
Medical students at Harvard are a little closer to the action. These individuals are helping to screen those visiting COVID-19 patients. They are also answering phone calls and running errands around the hospital.
Recent medical students are pitching in as well. NYU, a university in New York, the U.S. city with the highest number of COVID-19 cases, decided to allow last year’s medical students to graduate early, provided they agree to help out at the university hospital’s emergency and internal medicine departments next month.
Retired Healthcare Professionals
During this time of uncertainty, some states are allowing retired healthcare practitioners to reenter the workforce. Illinois is one state enacting this, inviting those with medical training to sign up to volunteer on the Illinois HELPS website. In the state of New York, Health Commissioner Howard Zucker is asking for similar assistance. He is inviting those with any medical training and expired licenses to join the frontlines. Those interested in These individuals are not merely showing up to hospitals and working. Instead, they are on call should their skillset and expertise be needed.
Despite their willingness to play a role in restoring national health, many retirees are not being contacted. One reason for this may be their age. Individuals above the age of 65 are considered at higher risk of contracting COVID-19 and having a more severe reaction to it. To avoid depending on this population, some pubic health officials are considering training medical professionals like nurses and dentists to care for those with COVID-19.
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