COVID-19 pandemic challenges for International Medical Graduates (IMGs)
practicing in the United States
Purpose: Given that nearly a quarter of the US physician workforce are
international medical graduates (IMGs), many of whom remain on temporary
work visas for prolonged periods due to processing delays, the pandemic
has posed unique challenges to these frontline workers and has
arbitrarily limited our physician workforce. Objective: The objective of
the study is to understand the role of IMG physicians practicing in the
US, their limitations and challenges due to immigration related issues.
Methods: Using a cross-sectional survey across social media platforms,
we obtained data from IMGs regarding their role in healthcare, to the
impact of visa-related restrictions on their personal and professional
lives. Results: A total of 2630 IMGs responded to the survey, Hospital
Medicine (1684, 65.7%) being the predominant specialty encountered.
64.1% were practicing in Medically Underserved Areas (MUA) or Health
Professional Shortage Areas (HPSA), with 45.6% practicing in a rural
area. Nearly 89% of respondents had been involved with direct care of
COVID-19 patients, with 63.7% assuming administrative responsibilities
for COVID-19 preparedness. 93% physicians expressed inability to serve
in COVID-19 surge areas due to visa-related restrictions. 72%
physicians reported that their families would be at risk for deportation
in case of their disability or death. Most respondents (98.8%) felt
that permanent resident status would help alleviate the above concerns.
Conclusion: Easing immigration restrictions could prove significantly
bolster the current physician workforce and prove beneficial in our
response to the COVID-19 pandemic.