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Rural Health: A Single Strategy to Recruit and Retain Physicians

By: Chris Franklin, president of Locumtenens.com | Updated on April 21, 2022

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We’re seeing burnout in all sectors of the healthcare industry. It’s a problem that was rearing its ugly head even before COVID-19 expedited healthcare staffing challenges. At Locumtenens.com, we are looking for strategies to minimize physician burnout and stabilize staffing for hospitals across the country. One area we’ve turned our attention to—Rural Healthcare. Rural hospitals and providers face unique challenges when it comes to recruiting and retaining talent.

Rural Health: A Single Strategy to Recruit and Retain Physicians

We’re seeing burnout in all sectors of the healthcare industry. It’s a problem that was rearing its ugly head even before COVID-19 expedited healthcare staffing challenges.

At Locumtenens.com, we are looking for strategies to minimize physician burnout and stabilize staffing for hospitals across the country. One area we’ve turned our attention to—Rural Healthcare. Rural hospitals and providers face unique challenges when it comes to recruiting and retaining talent.

We’ve gained unique insights from a recent survey of administrators and physicians. The Rural Physician Recruitment and Staffing Survey, which was created jointly by Locumtenens.com and Jackson Physician Search, tackles the hard questions and provides a glimpse of how to address physician staffing challenges in the rural setting.

A simple solution lies as the cornerstone of successful rural physician recruiting and retention initiatives—physician fulfillment.

Physician fulfillment could be the answer to physician retention

A disconnect exists between physicians and healthcare administrators when it comes to their perception of fulfillment.

When administrators were asked how fulfilled they believe their physicians are, only 12% identified their physicians as detractors, or unhappy and having a negative experience at the organization. 59% believed their physicians are passive, and 29% believe their physicians are promoters, or enthusiastically happy. However, 37% of physicians identified themselves as detractors, 45% were passive, and only 18% self-identified as promoters.

The survey found physicians practicing in suburban areas are less fulfilled than those practicing in rural areas. Generation X physicians, or those born between the years 1965 and 1980, were more likely than Baby Boomers to be detractors or dissatisfied when it comes to professional fulfillment (43% vs. 31%) and personal fulfillment (47% vs. 37%). This number is alarming, as Baby Boomers are either at or nearing retirement age and will soon be leaving the workforce.

Physician fulfillment can help attract new talent to rural practices

An astounding 72% of suburban and urban physicians reported they would be open to “trying out” rural medicine via a locum tenens assignment. This suggests rural healthcare facilities who aren’t currently relying on locum tenens talent to meet their staffing needs should consider it, and those who are should place a strong emphasis on physician fulfillment when working with locum tenens clinicians to make them more likely to be interested in remaining in rural healthcare after their assignment is over.

There are numerous strategies rural practices can employ from flexible work arrangements to physician wellness initiatives, but at the heart of the issue lies fulfillment. If we can create situations where physicians feel valued and supported, they will be in a better position to provide care for our patients and more likely to stay in their current clinical role.

There are many more findings in our Rural Physician Recruitment and Staffing Survey. It’s worth downloading the full white paper and taking time to dive into some of the finds. You can access the full report, here.

About the author

Chris Franklin

President

Chris Franklin serves as president of LocumTenens.com. With nearly two decades in healthcare and technology staffing experience, Franklin leads the LocumTenens.com team as they partner with clients to deliver innovative solutions that increase access to care and provide value to patients. He lives in Milton, Ga. with his wife and three daughters.