Study: 17% of healthcare workers are immigrants

A substantial portion of U.S. healthcare workers are born outside the country, according to a new study published by Harvard Medical School researchers in JAMA. The findings were true across different specialties, with 16.6 percent of all healthcare professionals in 2016 being non-U.S.-born.

“In a nationally representative sample, non-US-born individuals and noncitizens comprised a significant proportion of many health care professions in 2016,” Yash Patel, analyst with the Congressional Budget Office, former Harvard Medical School research assistant and co-author of the study, et. al wrote.

The findings underscore that the U.S. healthcare system heavily relies on foreign workers, who could become even more crucial in the future.

“As the US population ages, there will be an increased need for many health care professionals, particularly those who provide personal care like home healthcare aides, a large proportion of whom are currently non-US-born,” Patel and researchers wrote in the study.

Of the 16.6 percent of healthcare workers who were born outside the U.S., 4.4 percent were noncitizens. Non-U.S.-born professionals were also highly represented across several specialties in particular, including dentists, pharmacists, physicians and registered nurses, as well as nursing, psychiatric and home health aides.

The majority of healthcare professionals not born in the United States came from Asia (6.4 percent) or Central America or the Caribbean (4.6 percent).

Researchers used data from the American Community Survey, a Census Bureau-administered survey of U.S. households in which individuals self-reported healthcare occupations.