Recruiting Rural Providers: A Needle in a Haystack

As the population continues to age, hospitals everywhere have been balancing their needs with the ongoing demand for providers. With COVID-19 changing the landscape of healthcare this year and last, provider recruiting will never be the same. We're seeing a serious supply shortage for healthcare workers in rural areas and a significant uptick in demand that's not slowing down. 

In the last 40 years, our team has helped place over 5,000 physicians in rural hospitals not only helping to improve patient care, but help healthcare systems remain independent and better serve their community. In working with those thousands of providers, we recognize that it special kind of medical provider to be successful in the rural setting. 

In navigating COVID-19 this last year and marrying it with our traditional best practices for success, we've developed these three tips that will help you improve your provider recruiting into the new "normal" as we move forward. 

Find Medical Providers Who Care About the Community, Not Just the Job

When recruiting providers to become core team members of a rural hospital, we've found that it's highly critical that they also want to be engaged members of the community. Residents of rural communities want to see their doctors out at the coffee shop or at the local football game, feeling like they know and trust the person in a 360 kind of way. 

Whether you are employing a physician, using locums, or partnering with a program like ours, finding an engaged individual who understands the nuances of rural medicine and culture is critical. In rural settings, physicians often have less access to specialty care support, work as a solo provider and need to be the “quarterback” of the team, so their skillsets need to be more advanced in both breadth and depth.

We've discovered that our hospitalists, for example, must be comfortable performing vent management, central lines, and intubations on their own. In caring about the community, this means they have to be ok with going above and beyond what their typical duties in an urban setting may be to extend to the needs of the greater population. 

Make Sure to Screen for Adaptability. 

COVID-19 has added an additional layer of difficulty for rural hospitals when it comes to provider recruiting.

Providers who both understand the nuances of rural medicine and have the skillset to perform in the rural setting are needed now more than ever. Yet, at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the biggest challenges we faced wasn’t just finding these providers...

The biggest challenge of COVID-19 recruiting was physically getting providers to the hospitals. Navigating the ever-changing travel restrictions, state and local guidelines as well as varying hospital systems requirements did not prove to be an easy task on top of finding providers who were willing and able to provide care during such an uncertain time. 

Going forward, a big factor in the success of a rural provider is the ability to adapt to the circumstances.

Maintain a Flexible Mindset.

This may seem like the understatement of the year, but the pandemic forced us to be fluid with our plans, our teams, and our approach. Even our team was constantly watching the most up-to-date clinical, travel, and essential worker information as it was important to get that out to all our providers. 

Travel restrictions and the airlines cancelling flights became an issue in getting our providers to our partner hospitals. We had physicians stuck overseas that couldn’t travel and return to work. State and local governments often had different guidelines on travel and essential workers. Our Operations Team worked quickly to shift providers’ schedules and process numerous emergency state license applications. In addition to the travel, governmental, and hospital specific challenges during this time, the risk of providers contracting COVID weighed personally on our minds and hearts as we worried for them and their safety.

Our team at Rural Physicians Group is dedicated to finding the "right fit" provider. That's always at the top of the list - and pandemic or not - this proves to be a critical piece of the success chain for many rural hospitals.

If you're looking for that needle in a haystack, reach out to our team and see how we can help. 

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