The Association of Medical Colleges estimates that the United States will experience a shortage of 136,000 physicians by 2025. While this poses a problem for healthcare employers around the country, this shortage will be more acutely felt at rural health facilities. With only 4.8 percent of new physicians practicing in Rural areas, which comprise 25 percent of the U.S. population, the shortage in rural areas requires significant attention.
While the situation has the potential to negatively affect rural health centers and residents, there are many ways that healthcare employers can frame their opportunities to attract new physicians to their practices and communities.
Real Physician Compensation
One of the common misconceptions regarding rural medicine is the belief that Physicians are paid significantly less in rural settings. In truth, the difference between urban and rural physcian compensation is statistically insignificant. Furthermore, when adjusted for cost of living, rural physician compensation is actually significantly higher than that of their urban counterparts. Rural health employers can provide prospective candidates with this information, and even direct them to sites (such as bestplaces and cityrating) where they can compare the cost of living in multiple locations. Added to that, many rural communities can offer student loan reimbursement through a variety of programs, further benefiting rural physicians financially with each passing year.
Physician Training Tracks
Studies have shown that one of the greatest predictors of rural practice among physcians is the exposure of young physicians to rural medicine. Whether they grew up in a rural community or completed rotations in one during their training, these physicians are significantly more likely to practice in rural communities. Rural medical centers looking to attract physicians to their area after their training is completed can look into becoming Teaching Health Centers through new funding through the Affordable Care Act.
Location, Location, Location
Big cities aren’t the only places with things to do – even if that is a common belief. Rural communities often times have a plethora of outdoor and seasonal activities, as well as thriving community events and organizations. The key for rural health employers is to play to their community’s strengths. Highlight any outdoor activities (such as boating, moutain biking, rafting, equestrian sports, etc.) that the community offers and cannot usually be pursued in urban settings. It is also essential to highlight access to high quality schools in the area, the availability of lovely homes and neighborhoods, and the comfortable proximity to a larger city (if applicable).
It is important for rural health employers to take into consideration all of the tools and resources they have at their disposal for rural physician recruitment and utilize them all effectively. Through a combination of methods and strategies, it is possible for rural health employers to continue to find the physicians and alied health professionals they need to meet the needs of their communities.