The Covid-19 pandemic highlighted the effects of healthcare worker shortages on hospitals and their communities. Despite a seemingly new phenomenon, staffing shortages is an issue that have hindered the healthcare industry before the pandemic and has only been accelerated by it. In response, innovative measures to help solve staffing shortages have started to appear at the state-level around the U.S. However, a new law out of Washington state is expected to put Washington at the forefront of the push to solve staffing shortages through the use of foreign-trained medical graduates.
Washington’s New IMG Law
In May, Washington governor Jay Inslee signed a law that grants international medical graduates (IMGs) the opportunity to earn renewable two-year medical licenses and forego residency programs, a notoriously challenging step for IMGs wishing to practice medicine in the U.S. Instead, under the new law, IMGs will only need to meet a handful of other requirements–such as English proficiency and a passing score on all three USMLE exams. Those who are eventually licensed under this program will also have to work under a fully licensed physician.
The law is set to go live this month and according to the Washington Medical Commission, 40 IMGs are set to apply. TIME also reports that experts see this law as a model for other states across the country to enact similar programs and help foreign-trained medical graduates work in their field.
Why the Law Works
Due to the difficulty of matching into a U.S. residency program, many IMGs will improve their chances by doing their rotations in U.S. clinical programs. This builds their familiarity with the U.S. healthcare system and offers the opportunity to network with U.S. physicians who provide mentorship and can potentially write letters of recommendation. However,for those who don’t match into U.S. residency, they are often left in the U.S. working in non-medical fields, either preparing to re-apply to residency or beginning alternative careers.
Washington’s new IMG law solves an issues using a prominent and current resource: non-practicing but highly trained medical graduates with extensive medical knowledge and clinical experience. It creates an immediate solution to an issue that takes 5-7 years to solve through traditional education paths. Additionally, the law makes medical practice more accessible, which promises diversifying the industry and creating more culturally conscious hospital systems, ultimately benefiting patient care.
Are you a international medical student hoping to practice in the U.S? Explore clinical rotations at app.amopportunities.org