Get Personal: Attracting Physicians to Your Rural Community

 In For Facilities

It is no secret that the recruitment of healthcare professionals to rural areas has become challenging in many places around the country. With the national doctor shortage, recruiting physicians and physician assistants to places outside metropolitan cities has become more difficult. The demand for medical providers is so great that many are being recruited in their second year of residency.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, rural communities cover 97% of U.S. land and are home to nearly 60 million people. These communities account for nearly 20% of our country’s population, so it is vital that rural healthcare facilities attract quality medical professionals to their areas.

Working with a staffing agency that specializes in recruiting primary care doctors, physician assistants and nurse practitioners can be invaluable in filling medical jobs in rural areas. It is our goal to find professionals who will best fit your needs, and we can help you put together a strong compensation and benefits package that will be appealing to recruits and their families.

However, while we can bring you the candidates, you still have a significant role to play in landing your choice recruit. Think about the many things that make your community a great place to live and work. Are you ready to tell that story and create a picture of what life could be like for your new doctor or PA? When it comes to making your facility and your community attractive to a prospective recruit, we suggest getting personal.

Use personal referrals

Referrals from medical professionals are still one of the top ways to recruit physicians and physician assistants. Tapping into your employees’ personal connections to acquire new physicians has proven to be a successful healthcare recruiting strategy for rural hospitals and medical practices. If you don’t already have a referral program – complete with financial incentives – establish one. Make sure your staff is aware of the program and its benefits. Creating personal relationships with medical schools in your extended region is another great way to recruit. Contact their residency program when openings become available.

Know your selling points

Should the physician be relocating from a larger urban area, emphasize the benefits of a short commute and the lack of rush hour traffic. Many medical professionals believe that a position in a rural community means working 24/7 due to the shortage of professionals in the area. If your facility offers a good work-life balance, make sure the recruit sees examples of that in action.

Create a lifestyle vision

During the interview process, invite a local realtor to show the physician the types of neighborhoods and homes available. Provide information on local activities and organizations that would appeal to or benefit the individual. If children are involved, provide plenty of information on schools and youth programs in the area, both public and private.

By stepping outside the medical facility and understanding what the area has to offer, the recruit will gain a more complete picture of the life they could have in your community.

Extend a warm welcome

During the recruitment process, rural healthcare facilities often highlight their tight-knit community as a positive for the physician, but then they fail to facilitate a smooth entry for the newcomer once he or she arrives. Settling into a rural community can be intimidating for a new provider and his or her family. Everyone knows each other in a small town, and the newcomer can feel like an outsider.

It is crucial for rural medical facilities to welcome their new providers with open arms. Strive to make the physician or PA feel at home and ask what you can do to help ease their entry. Take a genuine interest in their personal life and interests. Ask questions and get acquainted. With the information you learn, you can help the newcomer find their stride, not only at work but also in their spare time. Furthermore, including the partner and/or children in the orientation process is critical to getting everyone off to a great start.

Throw a party

Small towns are known for gatherings and fellowship, so leverage that to help your new physician building lasting connections. Consider organizing a welcome event for your staff to meet the newest member of the team. A group lunch is a relaxed way of fostering camaraderie and a sense of the team coming together. Or host an evening event to introduce your new physician to patients and the whole community.

Build community for retention

Joyce Grayson, director of Rural Health Education and Services at the University of Kansas Medical Center states that, on average, physicians stay at their first jobs for only about three years. With that kind of turnover, hospitals and medical practices barely have time to train new staff members before they are ready to move on to other places. Rural medical facilities need physicians and PAs to hit the five-year mark – and ideally choose to stay long term.

In small communities especially, personal connections have a direct impact on retention. The more meaningful relationships your doctor has made in her or his time there, the more likely they will want to stay.

There are many ways to make smaller, more remote healthcare facilities attractive to potential recruits. Getting personal during the recruitment process is a strategy that rural communities have found to be successful. And by leveraging close, personal relationships over time, your medical professionals may just find themselves with a life they never want to leave.

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