Can international medical graduates help with the growing healthcare workforce shortage? Let’s break it down

Can international medical graduates help with the growing healthcare workforce shortage? Let’s break it down:

A couple of weeks ago, a headline caught my eye. Tennessee passed legislation allowing international medical graduates to obtain licensure and practice independently without completing a U.S. residency program. An op-ed that ran in STAT explains that the bill makes Tennessee the first state in the country to remove “redundant medical-residency requirements for top international doctors.” The hope is that this will help Tennessee address its growing physician shortage — a problem that is actually impacting the majority of the U.S. — by making it easier for doctors licensed outside the U.S. to come and practice in their state.

There’s a great thread on Twitter that helps break down some of the pros and cons of this new law. Let’s dive:

  • Pros:
    Streamlined application process: The law provides clear guidelines and requirements for international medical graduates seeking to practice medicine in Tennessee. This can help simplify the application process and make it more efficient.
  • Expanded opportunities for international medical graduates: The law allows licensed physicians from outside the U.S. or Canada, who have completed a residency program or practiced as a medical professional for at least three of the last five years, to apply for a provisional license. This can open up opportunities for qualified international medical graduates (IMGs) to contribute to the healthcare workforce in Tennessee. Essentially, MGs are residency trained with more than three years of experience; repeating residency won’t be necessary.
  • Addresses physician shortage: By providing a pathway for IMGs to practice medicine in Tennessee, the law aims to address the physician shortage and ensure better access to healthcare services for people.


  • Competency concerns: Some may have concerns about the competency and qualifications of IMGs who are granted provisional licenses. Ensuring that the standards of medical safety, competency, and conduct are upheld is crucial.
  • Language fluency: Requiring evidence of basic fluency in the English language may pose challenges for some IMGs, potentially limiting their opportunities.
  • Limited practice settings: The law restricts provisional license holders to providing medical services only at healthcare providers with residency programs accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education. This may limit the choices for provisional license holders in terms of practice settings.
  • Application fatigue: Tennessee HR departments will have application fever as they sift through mountains of applications.
  • Non-IMG downsides: Many IMGs can pursue high-quality residency training in their countries of origin — but ~40% are U.S. citizens (typically Caribbean graduates) who have limited options for non-U.S. training and are unlikely to be able to take advantage of this plan.

We talk a lot here at Modio about why it’s important that hospitals and health systems modernize their credentialing processes, and this conversation about creating pathways for IMGs to more easily practice in the U.S. shows why. Credentialing software ensures:

  • Efficiency and automation: Credentialing software can streamline the application process by automating various steps, such as verifying credentials, gathering documentation, and conducting background checks. This can save time and reduce administrative burden for both applicants and regulatory bodies.
  • Accuracy and compliance: Credentialing software ensures all necessary documentation and requirements are met, reducing the risk of errors or omissions in the credentialing process. It can also assist in maintaining compliance with regulatory standards and guidelines.
  • Transparency and accessibility: With credentialing software, applicants can easily track the progress of their application, access relevant information, and communicate with the regulatory authorities. This transparency can improve the overall experience for applicants and increase trust in the process.
  • Career hack: Providers beginning their careers can easily manage their documents and licensures in one centralized location, alleviating administrative burden both for the provider and credentialing teams.

What are your thoughts on the conversation regarding the new Tennessee legislation regarding IMGs? Should other states follow suit?

Kirk Heath, M.D., F.A.C.S. Kirk is President and Founder of Modio Health.

Facebook Comments