10 Levers for Successfully Recruiting Physicians to Rural Areas
posted by Ron Skarka
We've all heard the statistics about physician geographic distribution away from rural areas. Yet Triple Aim achievement requires physician recruitment success. Our communities must attract care team leadership with vision, compassion, and communication skills as well as the necessary clinical diagnostic and therapeutic skills. In other words success mandates both intellectual intelligence as well as emotional intelligence. We need "value" recruiting, not just "volume" recruiting. How do we convince these superstars to join our rural communities?
Having been a healthcare executive at small community hospitals for the past 25 years, I've had to pull a few rabbits out of my hat to win the competition for physician leaders. Here are ten "levers" that can help in this process:
Listen: Start by asking the physicians about their ideal practice setting and ideal location for their family (single physicians aren't usually enamored of rural areas but there are always exceptions). You might be surprised to hear the priorities. Many times I hear the following: "collegial environment, not cut-throat, personable colleagues, pleasant work environment, appreciative patients, opportunity to make a difference..." Regarding a place to live: "Balance of life, low crime, great schools, outdoor activities ...." Sounds like something we can provide in small towns.
Big Fish in a Small Pond: You won't be a number here. People will look up to you.
Educational Assets: Are your schools highly rated? A nearby college?
Access to Culture: You can persuade those undergoing the urban-rural transition that there is access to culture (summer theatre, arts, music festival, weekend trips to nearby city, great library, other assets unique to your area).
Professional autonomy: More opportunity to think for yourself.
Less Litigious Population: Not only less litigious, but, in many areas, more appreciative patients.
Opportunities for Innovation: Smaller organizations can be faster on their feet.
Collegial Environment: If you have this, flaunt it.
Family Assets: Many physicians want smaller towns for their children, especially if the doctor grew up in a small community. Highlight family assets in your community. Don't forget low crime rate, no traffic jams, natural beauty, etc.
Employee Work Ethic: This leads to better office productivity and environment.
These levers are somewhat generic examples to get you started, but you can add flavor to your efforts by emphasizing your unique assets and differentiating yourself from other communities. You will also want to balance your physician recruitment needs with your organization's strategic goals and business development. Using a focused, comprehensive strategy to physician recruiting will lead to the successful recruitment of quality physicians to your community.