For free help with your job search, call (800) 776-8383


Recruiting and retaining physicians in rural areas


physician standing in front of a small town Posted by Jackie Farley
physician standing in front of a small town

Attracting and retaining physicians in rural areas can pose a unique set of challenges. It can be particularly challenging to draw a physician with a family to an area that may not seem to have as much to offer in the way of activities and excitement. But with strategic approaches and tailored initiatives, your organization can successfully recruit and retain quality physicians to serve in these underserved communities.

Here are some strategies for recruiting and retaining physicians in rural areas:

Point out the pros of practicing in a rural area.

While recruiting in a rural area may pose unique challenges, practicing in one can also offer some unique benefits. Rural areas offer the potential for a far more favorable work-life balance and a lower cost of living than typically offered in more urban areas.

Additionally, "small town life" often comes with close-knit communities, meaningful patient relationships and an abundance of opportunities for professional growth and leadership. Remember: A small pond still has plenty of room for a few big fish.

Target your recruitment efforts.

Utilize the data to find where physician shortages are, and plan your recruitment efforts accordingly. Establish partnerships with medical schools, residency programs and professional associations to cultivate relationships with medical students and residents who may be more interested in practicing in a rural area. Finally, use digital platforms such as social media and targeted advertising to reach those potential candidates who may be willing to give practicing medicine in the country a try.

Offer competitive incentives.

Develop and offer a competitive compensation package that reflects the unusual demands and opportunities of rural practice, including sign-on bonuses, student loan repayment assistance and relocation assistance.

Address workforce support needs.

Rural healthcare systems can make some adjustments to make themselves more attractive to recruits. For starters, prioritize infrastructure improvements and technological advancements to enhance the delivery of healthcare services in your facility. For instance, offering access to specialists through telemedicine can help remind your physicians that country doesn’t mean cut off, which can give your recruitment efforts a boost.

If possible, implement flexible scheduling options and innovative staffing models to mitigate burnout and promote physician well-being.

It is especially attractive in a rural setting if you can offer robust support systems, such as on-site childcare and assistance with spousal employment opportunities, since both things can be harder to find in a more remote area.

Encourage community integration.

While there’s always been a joke about hearing small-town locals say, "You aren’t from around here, are ya?" the truth is, it’s crucial to foster opportunities for physicians to engage with local community members through outreach programs, educational initiatives and, perhaps most importantly, participation in community events. The best way for new physicians to build lasting relationships based on mutual respect and trust with members of the community is to demonstrate they are also members of that community.

Additionally, it’s important to collaborate with local leaders, government agencies and community organizations to address social determinants of health and promote population health initiatives.

One of the immeasurable benefits that comes with living in a small town is the unwavering support and assistance that is offered to members of the community by members of that community when there is a sudden need, such as a natural disaster or a community crisis.

Provide long-term career pathways.

In order to attract ambitious and dedicated physicians, it’s critical to develop clear career pathways and advancement opportunities within the organization, including leadership roles, academic affiliations and participation in quality improvement initiatives.

By utilizing these strategies, physician recruiters can effectively attract and retain talented physicians who are committed to serving rural communities.

Ultimately, your organization should concentrate on fostering a culture of collaboration, teamwork and shared decision-making to empower physicians to shape the future of healthcare delivery in rural areas. After all, if they’re going to walk part of their career journey in a rural healthcare organization, it’s important to let them leave some footprints for future physicians to follow.


Newsletter Sign-Up