McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — A new report found that more immigrants, if allowed, could fill much-needed healthcare openings, especially in Texas.

The report, “The Growing Demand for Healthcare Workers in Texas,” is among several recent state studies by the nonprofit American Immigration Council.

It is part of an overall report, “The Growing Demand for Healthcare Workers,” which “highlights the crucial role immigrants are playing to help address critical workforce shortages in healthcare at the state level.”

“Immigrants often punch above their weight, representing a larger share of workers in healthcare roles like physicians, surgeons, dental hygienists, and respiratory therapists than their share of the population,” the report found. But “although there is a growing need for healthcare workers, many immigrants who received specialized training abroad cannot practice in the state.”

In 2021, many immigrants with healthcare certifications and doctorate degrees were working in non-healthcare jobs, according to the report.

In Texas, in 2019, immigrants made up 19.1% of the state’s healthcare workers, while comprising just 17.1% of the state’s population, the Texas report found. This included 32.3% of all physicians and surgeons.

“For Texas to remain competitive and address critical shortages of physicians and other healthcare workers, it will be crucial to implement policies that not only attract and retain global talent that is complementary to the U.S.-born workforce, but that also build career pathways for immigrants who already call the state home,” according to the report.

The research found that “reducing barriers for international medical graduates and other internationally trained healthcare workers,” could help fill the job gap within the state.

From 2017 to 2021, the Top 5 in-demand healthcare jobs in Texas were:

  • Registered nurses
  • Medical records specialists
  • Licensed Practical and licensed vocational nurses
  • Clinical laboratory technicians
  • Physicians

The report found that during that time there were over 1.6 million advertised healthcare professional openings, an increase of 63%.

These healthcare employees are most sought after:

  • Opticians
  • Respiratory therapists
  • Dental hygienists
  • Licensed practical and vocational nurses
  • EMTs and paramedics
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) technologists

From 2015 to 2019, in Texas, immigrants made up 18.5% of respiratory therapists; 17.2% of MRI technologists; 13.2% of licensed practical and vocational nurses; 9.7% of opticians; 9.2% of dental hygienists, according to the report.

“As employers struggle to recruit and retain specialized healthcare workers, immigrants play a crucial role in helping to address labor shortages. With an increase in demand for multilingual and culturally competent employees, internationally trained healthcare professionals are uniquely positioned to provide support across all healthcare settings,” according to the report.

In 2017, the number of healthcare positions that required bilingual workers in Texas increased by 167%.

The report found rural counties in Texas — including most South Texas border counties — were most in need of healthcare professionals and could benefit from hiring immigrants.