Rural communities, those reliant on Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHC), are experiencing a shortage of physicians with general medical education. The trend for current medical schools is to adopt research and specialized training programs which do not gear doctors for rural practice. Along with a rural upbringing, the AAFP identified key indicators that would push physicians to work at rural hospitals:
- Attending a medical school that focuses on training rural physicians.
- Training that includes rural components. Rural rotations and other rural curricular elements in medical school and residency training are critical to keeping students who have an interest in rural practice from looking elsewhere (AAFP, 2014).
In the mean time, the limited supply of general practice physicians has led rural hospitals to demand more nurse practitioners and physician assistants (a trend most hospitals are following). As of 2011, the HRSA had designated 77% of rural counties as Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSA), meaning that there is 1 primary care practitioner for every 3,500 persons (a satisfactory ratio is 1 care practitioner to 2,000 persons).
Rural hospitals deemed FQHC need to fill their demand for family care providers, and when they are not readily available, must seek nurse practitioners and physician assistants. Rural physicians are in demand, yet, this opening should present an opportunity for doctors and medical school graduates to find new jobs.
To read more on rural physician retention, click here.