At a Senate Health Committee hearing last week, U.S. Senator Mitt Romney highlighted the urgent need to remedy the shortage of healthcare workers in the United States. In the aftermath of COVID-19, the healthcare sector is still in recovery mode, and to fully rehabilitate it, professionals must employ all resources at their disposal—including utilizing foreign-educated nurses.

Senator Romney noted that the shortage has been exacerbated by an “overwhelming backlog” of immigration applications for international nurses and doctors. He called on the State Department to reinstate pre-COVID operations, which would increase interviews and expedite application processes, allowing more foreign-educated health professionals to come to the U.S. for work in the field—rapidly filling fundamental gaps in care that are harming patients across the U.S.

Senator Romney pointed out that given the U.S. spends nearly double as much as the average developed nation on healthcare, Americans should expect that they will receive the highest quality care possible. With a depleted, under-resourced medical sector, this reasonable expectation becomes unattainable.

Senator Romney mentioned this in light of the nationwide shortage of nurses—especially as so many professionals, particularly in the Philippines, await application approval. The approval process can be prolonged because State Department employees work from home and put off interviewing applicants.

Senator Romney said, The backlog of medical professionals that want to come into this country has become enormous… apparently, the State Department is still so concerned about COVID that they’re not interviewing these people. And so places like the Philippines, where there are some 30,000 people who want to come here and serve as nurses, we can’t get those nurses in.”

Dr. James Herbert, President of the University of New England, agreed with Senator Romney on the importance of supporting foreign-educated workers in the healthcare sector, and discussed how UNE is employing accelerated programming to further educate international medical professionals.

In closing, Senator Romney called on government officials to prioritize interviews and applications for individuals looking to work in America’s healthcare sector. Senator Romney, like so many others, understands that a robust, well-resourced workforce is crucial to the wellbeing of all Americans.

Senator Romney said, “If we have a nursing shortage and a doctor shortage, let’s let those who are in line that are qualified come here…legal immigrants, following the legal process, where the State Department does the job they need to do and doesn’t stay home because of COVID will allow us to dramatically reduce the shortage that we’re seeing in this country.”

Read a transcript of Senator Romney’s remarks here.