May 30, 2019

Advantages of Practicing Medicine in Underserved Rural Areas

Taking the Scenic Route to a Balanced Career in Medicine

The lack of physicians in rural and underserved areas of the United States is a well-documented fact. Rural healthcare institutions struggle with finding providers and then face an uphill battle to retain these new recruits. The single strongest predictor of choosing a rural practice location is growing up in a rural location (1). The rural lifestyle of a practicing physician has many advantages.

Advantages of Practicing Medicine in Rural Areas

The following are just a few reasons why a practicing physician might consider working with a rural healthcare provider:

  • Independence & Autonomy
  • Community Culture
  • Additional Bonuses & Incentives
  • Outdoor Lifestyle

Independence & Autonomy

Any employee who is participating in Summer Hours Program and uses both of their allotted weekly WFH days will need to automatically assign one of those WFH days for Friday, and the other one can be used on any other day during the week (should you decide to use both WFH days in a week).

Typically, a provider working in a rural setting trains in primary care and family medicine and enters a practice with a broad scope. The rural setting demands utilization of a wide knowledge base as there are fewer specialists available compared with an urban setting. One of the advantages in this regard is the level of independence and autonomy. This allows a physician to achieve personal and professional goals. Physicians may see patients for cases that normally wouldn’t be seen and this challenge in turn stimulates learning and self-satisfaction. Today telemedicine technology is assisting rural physicians who lack access to specialties by filling those gaps and improving overall healthcare. Another benefit of a rural practice is the opportunity for a physician to play a role in policy decisions and the direction of the institution instead of being harangued by “big-city politics.”

how to recruit physicians to rural areas

Community Culture

A small town embodies a ‘community culture’ with an optimistic community spirit and positive interactions within in the community. This atmosphere of openness and communication may be very attractive to a physician and their family who is supported and respected in community. Members of a rural community know who their children are going to school with and associating with after school on the playground. Smaller schools and small business allow for personal relationships and social networking. It is so important in a time of need. In the rural setting the physician role is more than just healthcare but serves as a stalwart of the community providing jobs as well.

Additional Bonuses and Incentives

Rural healthcare salaries are competitive with the potential to negotiate for additional bonuses and incentives. Incentives available to a rural provider may include:

  • increased flextime so that physicians may attend family events;
  • no call;
  • part-time work;
  • student-loan forgiveness;
  • bonuses for signing, taking call or productivity.

Another attractive incentive for the rural setting is how physicians may obtain required continuing medical education (CME) hours. In the past obtaining CMEs has been an obstacle and a reason physicians’ have left a rural practice. With the implementation of the National Broadband Plan goal of providing high-speed internet throughout the US many live stream free CME opportunities are now available thereby saving time and money.

Outdoor Lifestyle

Rural settings may be “incredibly beautiful and serene” with many outdoor activities such as hiking, rock climbing, fly fishing, etc. that may be appealing to the entire family. There is no rush hour traffic allowing more free time with family or the ability to seek personal pursuits.

Practicing medicine in a beautiful environment, feeling good about serving a needy population, where there is time to pursue outside interests’ friends and family provides a positive atmosphere to prevent burnout.

  1. Mac Queen, Ian, et al. (2017) Recruiting Rural Healthcare Providers Today: a Systematic Review of Training Program Success and Determinants of Geographic Choices. J of Gen Intern Med 33(2), 191-199.
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