HealthDecember 06, 2019

3 strategies to attract physician talent to rural practice

Here are three strategies you can implement that can help attract physician talent to areas in dire need of healthcare services.

A survey of physician recruitment trends conducted by SIA* revealed that one of the challenges facing this profession is the difficulty of placing clinicians in rural, remote or otherwise perceived undesirable locations. While innovations in telemedicine and new, groundbreaking rural residency program tracks are helping to mitigate the problem of care delivery to under-served patients around the country, the goal of attracting physicians to open positions remains a hurdle. Against the backdrop of an overall physician shortage, and complicated by the fact that positions in community hospitals or Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) often offer less competitive wages, it’s no surprise that these placements are among the toughest for recruiters.

The National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC) reported in 2016 that at least 95% of all health centers were reporting a clinical vacancy, with 70% of those being a physician opening. **

However, there are strategies you can develop and implement that can help you overcome these challenges and attract healthcare talent to areas that are in dire need of services, especially primary care, behavioral health, and obstetrics and gynecology.

1. Appeal to physicians’ greater purpose

Delivering much-needed care to underserved populations can be extremely fulfilling and thus more attractive to physicians who seek to make a positive impact in measurable ways. By highlighting the candidate’s role in community initiatives and by clearly outlining the mission and philosophy of the organization, you can attract providers who desire to be agents of change. This is one area where building a solid employer branding strategy is vital – active and passive candidates want to know what differentiates your organization from the rest, evaluate if your values align to theirs, and try to discern if there will be a good fit culturally. Be sure your brand marketing and outreach is highly visible and consistent and features the intrinsic benefits of working rurally beyond the clichés of small-town life

2. Proactively address potential concerns

Reluctance to practice in a rural setting is often a result of compounding of concerns including anticipated heavy workload, lack of opportunities for continuing education and professional networking, and family considerations such as spousal employment and the quality and availability of educational and care services for children. By addressing some of these fears head on, more candidates may be likely to consider making the leap.Be sure to communicate:

  • Partnerships and affiliations with other regional institutions and practices that offer networking and educational opportunities
  • Existing telemedicine programs and technology
  • Top employers in the area
  • Educational statistics and ancillary services for school age children
  • Local recreational and cultural offerings

3. Pump up the non-salary benefits

It doesn’t need to be a “show me the money” situation in regard to salaries if the benefits and incentives of the position make a strong showing on their own.

  • Does your state offer tax benefits to practitioners who qualify by practicing in a rural area?
  • Do you offer payment of licensing fees, CME, association membership fees?
  • Are there value-based bonuses available that are based on quality of care goals?
  • Can hours be more flexible than in a larger organization?
  • Are sabbaticals available for mission work or research?
  • Will you make relocation easier by offering low-interest home loans or assisting with locating childcare or finding spousal employment?

The allure of rural practice may not be on every provider’s radar. But a comprehensive approach that positions the long-term value both from an “always on” branding approach, down to the specifics of a job posting and initial outreach can be highly effective and paint a picture that’s hard to resist.

* Source: US Healthcare Staffing Recruitment Strategies, September 2018
** Source: NACHC. Staffing the Safety Net: Building the Primary Care Workforce at America’s Health Centers. 2016. Retrieved from:

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