According to the National Hospital Association, nearly 2,000 hospitals in the United States are considered rural hospitals. That’s 35 percent of all hospitals in the United States.
Though there are plenty of open jobs in rural locations, hospitals can have a tough time filling them because not every physician wants to live permanently in a small town. As a result, locum tenens physicians are often called upon to work temporary assignments in these locations.
Rural Communities Need Healthcare
These communities and other remote locations often have little or no access to medical care, even if there is a hospital or clinic in the area. Locum tenens physicians are an integral part of staffing these facilities and ensuring that everyone has access to high-quality care.
Dr. Justin Allen, an emergency medicine physician, works most of his locum tenens assignments in rural areas. He loves having the opportunity to become part of the community — and keep his skills sharp.
“When I am working in a more rural area, I often have to handle the situation myself. Because of those cases I have encountered in my locum tenens assignments, I feel comfortable taking on [different] kinds of cases,” he says.
A Chance to Have New Experiences
Rural settings allow a physician to experience a lifestyle that may be extremely different from how they grew up or currently live. The exposure to different types of practice settings not only shows locum physicians new and alternative ways to practice medicine, it also gives them an opportunity to experience how other people live.
After working a few assignments at Whidbey General Hospital on Whidbey Island in Washington, Dr. Monica Anselmetti fell in love with the community and moved permanently to the island. She still works locums assignments elsewhere in Washington but enjoys her life on the island. Approximately half of the island’s 70,000 residents live in rural settings and are served by the local hospital.
More Earning Potential
Most doctors work in rural areas because they want to give back, they appreciate a quieter lifestyle, or they want to try different practice settings. However, some physicians choose to work in small towns because of the financial rewards.
With such a great need for rural physicians, many hospitals are able to offer a slightly higher salary. Combined with a lower cost of living, including housing, transportation and grocery prices, the pay for doctors who work in this area is greater than those working in urban areas — which is appealing to new doctors who have graduated with huge student loan debt and are eager to begin paying it off.
This article first appeared on HealtheCareers.com.