Now more than ever, hospitals nationwide need physicians and healthcare workers to work together to combat COVID-19. With a physician shortage already in existence before the pandemic, states are getting especially creative – loosening licensing rules to give healthcare workers with clinical skills the ability to help where needed, allowing out-of-state physicians to practice right away, asking retired physicians to volunteer, allowing medical students to be involved, and more (per NPR).
Let’s take a look at some of the recent changes with healthcare workers in an effort to combat the COVID-19 crisis.
State licensure requirements have been relaxed to allow medical personnel to practice across state lines.
States will now temporarily allow doctors to practice across state lines during the COVID-19 crisis, which will help physicians and recruiters to fulfill the needs of hospitals and patients. "The waiving of state licensure requirements should help ease a number of stress points of the current crisis in ways that benefit society," said Gregory A. Hood, MD, an internist in Lexington, Kentucky” (per WebMD). Regarding the ruling, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma said: “We believe that these recommendations will help surgeons, patients and hospitals prioritize what is essential, while leaving the ultimate decision in the hands of state and local health officials and those clinicians who have direct responsibility to their patients.”
The Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) has also announced that it will act to verify licenses and credentials for doctors wishing to practice across state lines. You can read the full statement here.
Medical students are pitching in.
Medical students across the nation are no longer attending their standard classes; however, in many states they are now facing an even more demanding role – helping COVID-19 patients in hospitals.
“[Medical students are] obviously in the process of learning how to be practicing physicians, but there's no reason why they can't also be helpful in the current situation," says Humayun Chaudhry, DO, MACP of FSMB.
Most medical students are eager to be involved and on the front lines of care through this crisis. One student at University of Michigan says “We also are hungry to help. This is what we signed up for.”
That said, it’s also important to note that some medical students who had been working or hoping to work on the front lines have been pulled from hospital rotations because of the dearth of personal protective equipment and the risk of exposure.
Doctors are coming out of retirement.
Recruiting retired physicians to fight COVID-19 has been a popular move among most states so far, but Dr. Irwin Redlener, Director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University, has a warning for the front lines of medical care. "If you start calling in retired doctors, nurses, whatever – these are de facto people at high risk," says Dr. Redlener. "They're older – that's why they're retired. Many of them will have serious medical risks on top of that. And if we're going to put them anywhere near the front lines of this particular pandemic crisis, we are endangering some very high-risk people."
Modified licensing requirements for telemedicine.
Many states are also modifying or waiving in-state licensure requirements for telehealth in response to COVID-19. Here’s a list of those modifications from the Federation of State Medical Boards.
How is COVID-19 affecting your physician recruitment? To see how doctors are interacting with Doximity during COVID-19, we invite you to join our free webinar on May 12, 2020. To claim your seat, simply click the blue button.