How Do Medical Recruitment Companies Attract Physicians to Rural Areas?
Physicians and patients residing in rural areas encounter unique challenges that differ significantly from their urban counterparts. A combination of economic factors, cultural and social differences, inadequate educational facilities and flat-out isolation all contribute to health care disparities. So, it probably comes as no surprise that recruiting and retaining rural physicians is an emergent challenge facing healthcare systems across the United States. In fact, as cited by the AAMC: though a fifth of the population live in rural areas, they are served by only a tenth of practicing doctors. That may be why medical recruitment companies are refining their abilities to attract physicians to rural practice – a challenging task, especially in the face of an ongoing shortage of healthcare providers.
Physicians may be hesitant to work in rural areas due to a lack of amenities and cultural opportunities, as well as the challenges associated with practicing in areas with limited medical infrastructure. Rural practices may offer lower salaries, which can make it difficult to attract and retain qualified physicians. Traditional wisdom suggests that measures such as improving support systems, offering incentives and developing partnerships are the best route to attracting rural practitioners. But those are purely organizational measures. Physician recruiters have an important role to play and, using specific criteria, are able to find candidates that fit the position and are more likely to stay in rural practice beyond the short term.
Recruitment efforts mirror a study published by Social Science & Medicine, which delves into what really motivates doctors to practice in rural areas. Data indicates that values, motivations, and personality traits play a big role in retention.
Making a difference: Physicians who are motivated by a desire to make a difference in the lives of their patients, rather than by financial incentives or prestige, are more likely to thrive in rural practice. These physicians are often more patient-centered and are better able to connect on a personal level, which can be especially important in rural communities where healthcare providers often play a larger role in their patients’ lives.
Looking for adventure: Physicians who are adaptable and willing to take on new challenges are often better suited to rural practice. These physicians are more likely to embrace unique opportunities and challenges, including a more varied patient population and a greater degree of autonomy in their practice. As a bonus, the adventurous type may be attracted to the outdoor sports and activities that only rural communities can offer.
Work/life balance: Physicians who are looking for a more balanced lifestyle may be drawn to rural practice, which can offer a steady pace and greater opportunities for work-life integration. Practitioners at risk of burnout from the fast-paced and high-stress environment of urban practice may welcome an opportunity to slow things down.
Community and practice environment
Physical and social aspects of rural towns, as well as the actual medical practice, can determine whether physicians are likely to remain in a rural community for the long term. Medical recruitment companies highlight benefits to attract the right candidates.
Location, location, location: Rural towns often grapple with fewer nuisances like traffic and crowds than urban areas. This can be appealing to the same physicians who value a more relaxed lifestyle. Rural towns also offer a lower cost of living, which can be attractive to physicians who are just starting their careers or who are looking to save money for other goals.
Opportunities: Rural healthcare organizations may offer unique practice opportunities that are not available in urban areas, such as the ability to work in multiple specialties or to provide care in a variety of settings. Additionally, rural healthcare organizations may offer the leadership roles and professional development that are not available in urban areas, allowing physicians to take on a greater role in shaping healthcare policy and practice in their community.
Support systems: Rural healthcare organizations often provide physicians with additional support and resources to help them adjust and connect with the local community. For example, healthcare organizations may provide mentorship programs and networking events to help physicians build relationships and establish themselves in the community.
Physician recruiters work closely with healthcare organizations and rural communities to tailor their recruitment strategies to address the unique challenges of rural practice and promote the benefits of rural healthcare, even to physicians who may not have considered going too far afield. Medical recruitment companies begin by identifying and recruiting physicians with the right attributes, skills, and values for rural healthcare settings. Community and practice environment, work-life balance and support systems are all critical considerations. And by working together, medical recruitment companies and healthcare organizations can improve access to healthcare for rural patients and support the sustainability of rural healthcare systems.