Tennessee Governor Bill Lee has taken a proactive approach to tackle the growing physician shortage in the United States by signing HB 1312 into law. This groundbreaking legislation makes Tennessee the first state to permit international medical graduates to practice without undergoing a residency program.
Under HB 1312, international medical graduates who hold valid licenses in good standing from other countries and have successfully passed the same standardized medical exams required for U.S. medical graduates can obtain provisional licenses. After practicing for two years under the supervision of a Tennessee-licensed physician, they become eligible for unrestricted licenses.
This law is expected to disrupt existing trends and help Tennessee address its projected shortage of physicians by 2030, with a deficit of 5,989 doctors, including 1,107 primary care physicians. The benefits of this law extend beyond the state’s borders, providing an opportunity for refugees, immigrants, and even U.S. citizens with foreign medical training to utilize their skills without redundant residency training.
Presently, doctors who have completed residency programs abroad and gained years of experience are required to restart their training upon practicing in the United States. The new law eliminates this requirement, potentially opening up residency slots for recent graduates who are unable to secure a program after medical school each year.
Despite the numerous benefits, the law has sparked a debate. Critics express concerns that this reform may compromise the quality of medical care provided to American patients. However, it’s important to note that the law maintains the quality assurance role of state medical boards and introduces an additional layer of quality assurance by mandating that these newly licensed doctors work at hospitals or licensed medical facilities for the first two years of their practice. Some also worry about the potential creation of a “midlevel” physician group and the possibility of hospital corporations exploiting doctors from around the world, leading to a decline in compensation for U.S. physicians.
The official stance of prominent medical associations like the American Medical Association on this new law remains unknown. Such information could offer valuable insights into the reception of this law and its potential replication in other states.
This law signifies a significant shift in the landscape of medical practice in the United States. It holds the promise of addressing physician shortages, particularly in underserved and rural areas, while raising essential questions about the quality of care and the future structure of the medical profession. As the pioneering state in implementing this legislation, Tennessee’s experience is likely to shape the ongoing debate in other states confronting similar challenges.
The true impact on residencies and medical practices across the United States will become clearer as we observe the implementation and effects of this law in the coming years.