Although the physician shortage in rural America has long been a challenge for recruiters, it has become amplified right now. Nearly 20% of U.S. citizens live in rural locations, yet less than 10% of U.S. physicians practice there.
With a majority of elective care cancelled this past spring, and many people hesitant to go to a hospital because of coronavirus, Alan Morgan, the head of the National Rural Health Association says the coronavirus is a threat to rural hospitals that are already at the financial brink. Unfortunately, a limited number of physicians (and facilities closing) means many people will go without the medical care they need. In fact, 23% of people in rural areas already say access to good medical care and doctors is a major problem in their community, compared to 9% in suburban areas, per PMC.
Fortunately, a number of supplemental funding packages have been distributed by the federal government, including a $70 billion in COVID-19 relief aid to hospitals and other healthcare providers since April, and that same month the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services also awarded nearly $165 million to combat the pandemic in rural communities, per HHS.gov.
It's important to note, though, that dwindling occupancy rates may prove to be an opportunity for rural hospitals. In an analysis by the Harvard Global Health Institute, “rural areas have significant slack in the system, allowing them to handle an influx of non-infected patients.”
Recruiting for rural positions remains a challenge, but it might just take a new approach by recruiters. It’s often thought that physicians simply don’t want to work in rural areas, but a survey by LocumTenens.com asked why physicians who had not practiced in a rural seeing had never done so, and the top three answers were:
- Never found the right opportunity there (26%)
- Never been offered a position there (23%)
- Never considered it (19%)
Only 4% answered they did not want to work in rural communities! It’s true that physician candidates may have limited options when it comes to nightlife or fine dining in rural areas, but the positives can far outweigh the negatives. For starters, because rural areas are less populated, land prices are lower, which means the quality and size of a home are much more spacious than those in an urban market. Childcare, property taxes, and a whole range of services tend to be less expensive, too, per U.S. News.
Do you have a rural sourcing and recruiting strategy? Here are a few things to consider:
- Help candidates see the urgent need for their expertise and compassion. Your opportunity could be personally and professionally fulfilling – and make doctors feel more valuable.
- Conduct searches by geographic ties. If a candidate grew up in a rural area or has family ties to an area, they’re more likely to be interested.
- Did your candidate attend training (medical school/residency/fellowship) in a rural area? If so, they’re more likely to be interested in a full-time rural position.
- Try sourcing from a rural training program, like the Scholars in Rural Health program at the University of Kansas School of Medicine or the University of New Mexico’s School of Medicine Rural and Urban Underserved Program and more. You can find a list of others on the Rural Health Information Hub.
- Use Doximity Talent Finder to recruit rural candidates. Our medical network has over 115,000 verified profiles of healthcare providers physicians located in rural areas.
- Watch our on-demand webinar, How to Recruit the Best Physicians to Rural America.
Rural health care facilities can’t change their location, but physician recruiters can change the way they market the quality of their facility and community. To learn more we invite you to read an earlier article Rural Bound: Persuading Doctors to Work in Rural America.