3 Tips to Successfully Recruit (and Retain) Providers in a Rural Area

By Lesley Ogden, MD, MBA, FACEP
CEO, Samaritan North Lincoln and Samaritan Pacific Communities Hospitals

Recruiting top physician or advanced practice provider (APP) candidates to a rural area is difficult, given provider shortages/maldistribution, candidate concerns about living and working in rural areas, and limited recruiting resources. As the chief executive of two hospitals in smaller coastal cities, I want to share some tips that may help with your struggle.

Tip 1: Diversify your search.

Look at different avenues to ensure you are connecting with providers who are interested in learning more about underserved areas. To generate leads, use all the resources possible like 3RNet (the National Rural Recruitment and Retention Network), J-1/H-1B Visa programs, job search websites, specialty websites and publications, and rural medical student or resident rotation programs. You are more likely to find a match, of course, with a greater number of candidates.

Highlight the great benefits you offer such as loan repayment or forgiveness programs, tax credits, malpractice coverage, housing stipends, or anything else that you can offer that has value. Make sure you ask questions about the family’s needs to ensure you are recruiting the whole family—not just the provider.

Tip 2: Put your best foot forward.

During the interviewing process, make sure your campus and facilities are as all-around attractive as possible. Put thought into what makes your site unique, and highlight those attributes before, during, and after a visit. Point out the positive things about your location, hospital, or clinic, and don’t be shy. Toot your own horn!

Personalize the candidate’s visit and make sure they receive attractive, professional materials about your hospital or clinic and the surrounding area. Find out what they like to do for fun and plan that activity for their visit. If the candidate is bringing their family, arrange family outings. If they are a new graduate, introduce a potential mentor.

It takes a village to recruit providers to rural areas and at times you will need to enlist board members and school administrators to help. Delve into whether the candidate will be truly happy in your area.

Investigate whether they have any reluctance to practice at your site to see if you can mitigate their concerns. Try to be flexible with their work schedule and consider whether you can offer a lifestyle specific to their needs that no one else is willing or able to provide.

Tip 3: Don’t forget about retention.

Retaining providers in rural areas is key to a good recruitment program. Check in with your new provider at the 30-, 60-, and 90-day marks to ensure they are acclimating
to the community and to their practice.

Be prepared to offer information on childcare options, religious organizations, interest groups, etc. in your area and consider setting up an established provider as a mentor upon their arrival.

Assist with developing skills that will make your new provider more efficient, in control, and happier.  

While recruiting and retaining providers in rural areas presents many challenges unique to each location, keeping these three tips in mind can help make the process smoother for the provider and the employer.

v2 2016