If more nurses and other healthcare workers leave the profession, what happens to patients?

The difficulty in retaining healthcare workers during a prolonged nursing shortage keeps this question top of mind for nursing leaders and healthcare decision-makers. Provider organizations have increasingly turned to foreign clinicians to counteract the growing shortage.

In a survey taken in 2018, 28% of physicians and surgeons and 15% of registered nurses in the U.S. are international.

But the shortfall of clinicians is not the only reason why international clinical talent is essential to the success of healthcare. Foreign clinicians aren’t just “bodies” to do a job. They carry with them a unique perspective and skillset that are invaluable to patient care.

Recently on the Humans in Healthcare podcast, we had a conversation with Dr. Arun Singh, M.D., a prolific heart surgeon in the U.S. who migrated from India in the 1960s. He points out,

Medicine has advanced quite rapidly…but the human aspect, we are losing. We know we can treat them. We know the medicine, we can do the surgery, but …there is no substitute for the human aspect.

Singh grew up in India, with much fewer health resources than in the U.S. He faced difficult circumstances on his journey to success, from a mangled hand that required painful surgery during his childhood, to the skepticism and cultural ignorance he faced from colleagues in the U.S.

Singh’s personal experiences as a disabled child in India combined with his professional experiences as a surgeon has taught him to embrace the painful feelings that come with those experiences. In his poignant memoir, Your Heart, My Hands, he elaborates on the importance of emotional connection in healthcare, especially in our current climate where the “human” element of patient care often comes second to efficient workflows and technological advances.

Recent surveys indicate that in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, many U.S. healthcare workers intend to leave their profession. The importance of foreign clinicians will only grow.

Foreign clinicians like Singh both are well-rounded in their training and carry a diverse set of experiences that bring a refreshing perspective to U.S. healthcare. We love having the opportunity to offer international clinicians a new life in the U.S. where they can take advantage of the abundant opportunities to apply their healthcare knowledge and skillset.

At Shearwater Health, we have the distinct privilege of utilizing a global supply of clinical talent to improve the lives of patients in the U.S. Not only do foreign clinicians help tackle the current nursing shortage, but research shows that internationally trained nurses help boost patient safety and quality of care. Like Dr. Singh, they supply far more than someone able to do the challenging work of healthcare. They supply a deep, global perspective that adds high-quality care and compassion for our patients.