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Ernst Works to End Healthcare Workforce Shortages in Iowa

Bipartisan legislation allows previously authorized visas to bring physicians and nurses to the United States

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) is continuing her work to combat the healthcare workforce shortage across Iowa by allowing 40,000 previously unused visas to be used by nurses and doctors.

“Growing up in rural Montgomery County, Iowa, I’m all too familiar with the challenges of accessing medical care. Postponed procedures, limited hospital beds, and long wait times for specialists have become the norm, and rural communities feel it the most,” said Ernst. “These nurses and doctors will provide critical medical services in communities suffering from staffing shortages so folks can receive the care they deserve. Strategic bipartisan reforms like these help create a pipeline of talented physicians to healthcare facilities across Iowa.”

“Montgomery County Memorial Hospital is grateful for Senator Ernst’s leadership in advancing the bipartisan Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act. This legislation is urgently needed to address critical healthcare work shortages in rural communities like ours,” said Ron Kloewer, CEO of Montgomery County Memorial Hospital. “It is extremely difficult to recruit doctors and nurses into rural America. The intense competition drives up costs and affects the retention of established doctors; often resulting in a no-win situation. An increase of qualified immigrant doctors and nurses can help ensure that hospitals across Iowa are adequately staffed to provide the care our patients deserve. History has shown that programs supporting immigrant doctors and nurses work very well in rural America, we need more of those success stories.”

“The Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act is a welcomed, common sense approach to help us recruit and retain thousands of physicians and nurses – highly-skilled and urgently needed professionals who are wanting and willing to care for patients in the United States,” said Jessica Zuzga-Reed, DO, pediatric critical care physician and President of the Iowa Medical Society. “This legislation represents a tangible and timely strategy that will have immediate positive impacts for our healthcare workforce and the communities we care for. We applaud this bipartisan legislation and implore representatives in both chambers to move the Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act forward.”

“UnityPoint Health appreciates Senator Ernst’s work to help address the nurse staffing challenges our facilities continue to navigate,” said Sarah Brown, MSN, RN, Chief Nursing Officer for UnityPoint Health.

The bipartisan Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act:

  • Allows for the “recapture” of green cards that were authorized by Congress but unused in previous years, which includes 25,000 visas for nurses and 15,000 visas for physicians,
  • Ensures immigrants who receive these visas will not displace an American worker, and
  • Requires eligible medical professionals to meet licensing requirements, pay filing fees, and clear rigorous national security and criminal history background checks before they can receive recaptured visas.


This August, Ernst led the bipartisan Directing Our Country’s Transfer of Residency Slots (DOCTORS) Act that reallocates unused waiver slots through the existing Conrad 30 program to states that used all thirty waivers in the previous year to increase access to healthcare for rural Iowans.