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Rural Recruiting Resource Center

The Advantages of Practicing Rural Medicine

Why practice rural medicine?

Most physicians who have practiced medicine in rural areas agree that the pace of rural health care is slower, and that their relationships with patients are better than they are in urban or suburban practice.

Rural Physician Versus Metro Physician Salaries

The perception that physicians don't make much money in rural areas stops many rural physicians from seriously considering rural medicine before they even get to other concerns.

At least one noted physician-Dr. Robert Boyer, who practiced medicine in Kansas for 30 years-believed that rural physicians generally earn more than metro-area physicians because they 'do more things with more patients.' He found that since specialists generally are in short supply in rural areas, rural family physicians sometimes deliver babies, perform surgery and set broken bones-procedures most would not attempt in a more urban environment.[i]

Physician research conducted by indicates that, on average, incomes for rural doctors don't differ significantly from those of their urban colleagues. In fact, they often come out ahead in terms of real purchasing power.

Results of the firm's 2008 physician salary survey indicate that the average rural physician salary is almost identical to the average metropolitan salary ($234,421 in rural areas versus $234,267 in metro areas-a difference of $154). However, the average rural physician salary is roughly $1,663 less than the average suburban physician salary ($234,421 versus $236,083, respectively). These statistics are based on more than 3,100 responses to the physician survey.

In's August 2007 physician survey on rural health care, 58% of the almost-800 respondents who had practiced medicine in a rural area said the profitability is about the same as (35%), or more profitable than (23%), urban or suburban practice. Another 14% said that, "The greater purchasing power in a rural community compensates for the lower profitability of rural practice."

Moreover, a study published by the Center for Studying Health System Change (HSC) in January 2005 indicated that "average physician incomes in rural and urban areas do not differ significantly," and that rural doctor incomes on average provide about 13 percent more purchasing power than urban physician incomes."

In 1977, Dr. Robert Boyer, a family physician who practiced rural medicine in Kansas for 30 years, was the first physician to be named Family Doctor of the Year (now "Family Physician of the Year") by the American Academy of Family Physicians. In his presentation to rural medicine students at the University of Nebraska Medical College, Dr. Boyer said that medical schools foster "myths and misunderstandings" about rural health care that he proceeded to dispel by sharing some of the experiences from his own 30 years in rural medicine.

  • Myth #1: You won't make much money as a rural physician.
  • Myth #2: You'll be on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week (so you won't have time for yourself or your family).
  • Myth #3: You can't possibly know enough. (You'll be isolated and "in over your head" professionally.)

Rural Healthcare Recruiting
Tips for recruitment and retention of physicians in non-metropolitan areas

The economies of rural communities and the lifestyle associated with the rural communities are strong barriers to recruiting and retaining physicians.

Social Fulfillment - Consider the social adjustment for not only the physician, but also for the physician's family, including spouse's career and the educational facilities available for children.

Recruitment must be a community effort, involving other local providers, community leaders and facilities if possible. This helps to orient the physician and family to the cultural aspects of the community.

Professional Fulfillment - Adequate CME should be accessible. Develop programs allowing rural clinicians to undertake periodic rotations through academic hospital services (with locum tenens backup) in order to learn or update procedures.

(National Rural Health Association, Physician Recruitment and Retention, November 1998)

Rural Recruiting Services understands that recruiting for rural America is more challenging than recruiting for metropolitan areas. Our full service agency can help you find physicians and CRNAs in Anesthesia, Emergency Medicine, Primary Care, Psychiatry, Radiology and Surgery. Best of Staffing Client Logo Best of Staffing Talent Logo Fortune Best Workplace Logo NALTO Logo Beyond Profit Logo