Rural Healthcare: Benefits to Practicing in Rural or Underserved Areas

Rural America has a definite need for physicians and other healthcare providers. Approximately 25 percent of the US population lives in rural areas, but only 10 percent of physicians practice in rural areas. In addition, rural areas average 30 dentists per 100,000 of population while urban areas average 60 dentists per 100,000 people.

Rural living is becoming increasingly popular, and for a variety of reasons. For many, having a less crowded place to live and work is attractive. Others enjoy the sense of community and family-friendly atmosphere. These, along with many other benefits, make practicing—and living—in a rural area of the U.S. a great choice. Continue reading to learn why other physicians and health care providers choose to work in rural America.

Getting Back to Your Roots

Many health care providers have rural roots, and enjoy going back to them, whether it’s to their own hometown, or another rural community. Many also value the rural environment for raising children. According to one physician, “I had the best childhood, with plenty of land to run on, muddy ditches to swim in, and cows and other livestock to chase. We want the same for our children.” Many want to give back to the community they grew up in. Says one physician, “I went to medical school for the single purpose of coming back to my hometown and opening up a clinic.”

Need for Accessible Health Care

Another factor contributing to many health care providers’ decisions to work in rural or underserved areas is simply the need these places have for accessible health care. Rural hospitals need physicians and other healthcare professionals to remain viable, and more and more physicians appreciate being able to support those community hospitals.

Lifestyle Improvements and Debt Reduction

With physicians coming out of training with such high debt loads, rural communities may offer significant advantages in being able to provide very nice lifestyles, and help reduce debt at the same time. Smaller communities may make incoming physicians eligible for more federal and/or state loan repayment programs; many communities offer their own loan repayment programs as recruitment incentives. In addition to the lifestyle benefits of living and practicing in rural areas, the cost of living is generally significantly less.

A Shorter Commute

A shorter commute is just one benefit of rural living. But to many, this offers the opportunity to spend more time with family or to do things you love. Says one physician, “One of the things I really like about practicing in a small town is more time for my family…Time in traffic is time away from them.” Says another, “The clinic here is 10 minutes away from my home, and my home is a couple of blocks from the hospital. Often I’ll run home for lunch to spend time with my wife and the kids. It’s nice to be home right after clinic is done, to have dinner with the family, and to spend time with my kids before they go to bed. In a rural town, anywhere I am I’m close to home.” Said another, “If I want to finish a cup of coffee on the way into the office in the morning, I have to drive around in circles—or I can walk the commute in 5 minutes.”

Recreation

Rural America offers a variety of recreational opportunities—outdoor activities, indoor recreation, and cultural opportunities. Says one doctor, “the secret thing about rural communities is that there is way more to do than we have time for—you just have to find it."

Work-Life Balance

Many rural healthcare workers enjoy the work-life balance rural living provides. Says one, “a rural medical practice enables me to balance work and family.” Work-life balance is important for improved job satisfaction, health, and overall happiness. Working in a rural community—with fewer stressors such as traffic, shorter commutes allowing for more time at home with family, and plenty of opportunities for recreation—especially outdoor recreation, can help improve the work-life balance.

In summary, why not consider rural practice? While it may not be for everyone—it may be for you. To search available rural practice opportunities, register here or login at the top of the page.

3RNET members Loan repayment programs Loan repayment programs J1 Visa waiver