3RNet Blog

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This blog comes to us from our South Carolina member, Stacey Day Halford.

The candidate pool of new primary care physicians seeking rural practice opportunities is small. Honing in on the attributes most likely to predict a candidate’s affinity for rural practice is critical to recruiting the right person for a long career in your community. 

Specialized Rural Training.  Ask about special training during residency that focuses on care delivery in rural settings. Physicians who attend a primary care Rural Residency Training Track, or RTT, are uniquely prepared for rural practice. Seneca Lakes Family Medicine Residency Program is the sole RTT in South Carolina. For more information and a list of RTTs nationwide, check out https://www.ruralhealthinfo.org/topics/workforce-education-and-training#rtt.

From a Rural Community. Candidates from rural communities have a good understanding of both the benefits and challenges of rural living and work. Ask an open ended question about what a candidate’s hometown experience was growing up, and allow them to fill in the gaps about where their real practice and community interests lie. 

“Mission” Minded. Begin the “mission” minded conversation and see where it leads. Trust your gut and listen for what some call a spirit of service or altruism; that inclination is critical to any rural healthcare provider’s success and longevity in your community. Another question to ask is “What made you choose primary care over the other specialties?”. Look for answers that highlight the physician/patient relationship. Navigating the relational side of practice is at the core of rural primary care delivery.

Finally, share what your practice and community have to offer to help screen in – or out – physicians who are rurally oriented.

Solo Practitioner or Team Based Care? Ideally you are recruiting due to practice growth, with at least one other physician in the practice. Very few candidates coming out of residency are comfortable with practicing independently. Part of selling your rural opportunity will be ensuring your new physician hire knows that she or he will have support. If your referral network is not robust, explore telehealth, Palmetto Care Connections may be a good fit (http://palmettocareconnections.org/#).

Familiarize yourself with state and national programs. Having a basic understanding of the state and national programs that may be accessible to a rural-focused candidate is vital. The South Carolina Rural Physician Incentive Grant, administered by the South Carolina AHEC, is a competitive program that provides incentive grants for primary care physicians who commit to practice in a rural or underserved area of South Carolina for a period of four years in counties with fewer than 50,000 people (http://scahec.net/incentivegrant.html). Most programs through the National Health Service Corps require placement in rural or underserved outpatient primary care settings. Private practices must go through an application process to become qualified as an NHSC site, which includes implementing a sliding fee scale for uninsured patients (http://nhsc.hrsa.gov/).

Sell your community. The right recruitment team can help your candidate fall in love with your practice and community, so look to community leaders for their support. Selling your practice and community involves highlighting the things that are special while not ignoring the obvious challenges. The right physician hire may just be the community champion and solution-seeker your community has been looking for. 

For more information, contact Stacey Day Halford at 803-454-3850, or via email to stacey@scorh.net.

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