Social shifts created by the pandemic are drawing people out of cities and into more rural areas. Country living has increased appeal: nearly half of all U.S. adults said they prefer to live in a small town or rural area in 2020, up from 39% in 2018, per a recent Gallup study.
The primary reason? Remote workers now have an opportunity to live where they want rather than living physically close to their jobs. It’s also easier to practice social distancing outside of urban areas. Small towns and rural areas are becoming more popular, but it’s important to ask: does this mean doctors are more willing to move to rural areas, too?
Long before the pandemic, one of the few constants in U.S. healthcare was the physician shortage in rural areas. More than 50 million Americans live in rural areas (about 20% of the population). Still, only 9% of the nation’s physicians practice in rural communities, per the National Institutes of Health. Finding healthcare is a challenge for many people who live in rural areas, and with more people comes a demand for more doctors. Small-town physicians have an opportunity to make a significant impact.
Most rural communities offer the advantage of rich and diverse practices – and some of the most exciting opportunities in medicine. There’s typically a stronger emphasis on patient relationships, less time-consuming call responsibilities, and better career development opportunities. Then there’s a perfect small-town setting (and the relationships that go with it); smaller schools with more individualized attention for doctors’ kids; and much easier access to recreational activities. Now that’s a compelling argument for getting doctors to move to small towns.
COVID-19 has amplified the essential role that rural providers play, too. Rural health care providers make sacrifices to provide access to critical services that people would have to travel long distances for otherwise. In Colorado, the COVID-19 crisis fueled the growth of a newly designed hospital buddy system that allowed urban and rural hospitals to coordinate and share high-level patient care resources on an hourly basis. “By our health care leaders and state officials collaborating and working together broadly across the state, patients receive better care, and ultimately, lives are saved,” per the Greeley Tribune.
Recruiting for rural positions remains a challenge, but our Client Success Managers have a few tips for success:
- Be specific in your searches and outreach messages. Physicians want messages that are relevant to them. Do your research before you reach out and only contact physicians who, on paper at least, are an excellent fit for the job. Doximity’s recruitment tools have over 30 search filters, and you can filter by things like ‘Past Ties’ so you can see all the clinicians that have worked or attended Medical School or Residency in that area. This filter has always been highly effective for finding rural candidates, but when many young professionals are moving out of the cities, it is especially helpful.
- In your Job Post title, highlight the nearest metropolitan area. At Doximity, we’ve noticed that Job Post titles for rural positions often perform better when they mention a surrounding city.
- Share perks of the job. As we mentioned above, the benefits of raising a family and enjoying outdoor activities in a rural location are enticing. In your outreach and candidate interviews, remember to sell all the perks that come with living in a rural area.
- Try sourcing from a rural training program. Clinicians in these programs have already shown an interest in working in rural areas, so why not reach out to them? A few programs include 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.
We published some additional tips in an earlier article that are worth another look. Or, to learn more about how our clients leverage Doximity’s network and recruitment tools to find rural candidates, check out this Success Story with Northern Arizona Healthcare.