The Death of Rural Doctors

Most rural states have been very successful over the years at ensuring the amount of crops they are able to produce and harvest each year is ever increasing. Through innovation, dedication, and hard work they have become very efficient and effective at this.

There is one challenge for many years they have not been able to address and that is how to entice doctors to stay and establish a practice in rural areas.

The Acute Shortage of Rural Doctors

It is an open secret that America currently suffers from a shortage of physicians especially in rural areas. The Los Angeles Times recently reported that the demand for qualified doctors and other specialized medical practitioners is increasing faster than the medical training facilities are able to churn them out. The effect of this is patients have to wait for long durations to see a physician and in most cases more than one trip to a medical facility before one can be attended to.

A study done by a leading research firm, Merritt, Hawkins & Associates indicated that a patient normally takes an average of 24 days before he or she can see a dermatologist for skin cancer screening and the waiting period to see a gynecologist is 23 days on average. The situation is far worse in rural towns where such services are in most cases unavailable.

Reasons for Shortage of Doctors in Rural Areas

The severe shortage of doctors among rural communities has a myriad of causes ranging from public policy and excessive workload, to remuneration issues. According to Merritt, Hawkins estimates, early retirement of doctors to set up private practices in metropolitan areas among other reasons will create a shortage of 90,000 to 200,000 doctors by the year 2020.

Rural areas will particularly be affected by the shortage of doctors as most have already left to seek better paying jobs in major cities. It is becoming increasingly difficult to keep a doctor in a rural clinic for more than a few months. Most medical school graduates are not very willing to relocate to rural towns despite the fact that physician jobs are always available in such locations. Other reasons for this shortage of doctors in these regions include:

  •  It has become increasingly difficult to replace rural doctors after they retire.
  • Rural doctors are not paid as well as their metropolitan counterparts primarily because they serve a lower number of patients.
  • Most rural clinics have either one or two physicians on call at all times leading to increased workload issues. Most doctors who leave rural clinics cite a large workload as one of the major issues for rural to city migration. Being on call at all times without a break can be very disruptive to a rural doctor’s lifestyle.
  • There are a good number of rural doctors who have private practices elsewhere which makes it difficult to serve full time in a rural hospital.

How to Retain Doctors in Rural Areas

Efforts to retain doctors in rural areas should focus on providing more diversified and better paying packages to physicians and other medical practitioners. The doctors may need to be provided with a clear description of the hours they are expected to work in a full-time basis and the number of patients they are expected to deal with.

Other approaches aimed at attracting more doctors to rural communities include provision of free or subsidized housing in the regions they serve. Doctors with families can be provided with bursaries for children tuition and other similar offers after agreeing to work in rural areas.  A recruitment of foreign trained doctors can also help boost the number of doctors in remote locations. The major factor to address however is low remuneration in rural hospitals.

What are your thoughts on these issues impacting rural communities? Please use the contact us link below to send the Stethoscope Reviews team your feelings, thoughts, and ideas on this issue.