How Rural Hospitals and Practices Can Attract Additional Qualified Physicians

Small Rural Areas Hospital A national study of the emergency physician workforce in 2020 found that, of the 48,835 clinically active emergency physicians in the United States, 92% (44,908) practice in urban areas and just 8% (3,927) practice in rural communities. The study, which was published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine, also found that most emergency physicians in small rural areas completed their medical training more than 20 years ago. When you consider that the median age for emergency physicians in large rural communities is 58 years old, and 62 years old in smaller rural communities—near the U.S. retirement age—you can understand why rural hospitals and practices would want to attract qualified physicians.

Given the ongoing demand for physicians in all U.S. emergency departments, how can rural areas attract and retain top talent? A focus on hiring qualified primary care physicians may be the answer. Currently, about half of the nation’s emergency department workforce has completed a residency in a primary care field, and many of these physicians have substantial experience in emergency medicine.

A Focus on Primary Care Physicians

While rural and urban patients share many of the same lifestyle-related health problems, like obesity and drug abuse, some issues like snake bites or inadequate access to primary medical care are unique to the rural setting. Primary care physicians are ideally suited for the ER—especially in rural areas. Primary care doctors usually have a diverse skill set and a strong clinical background, and the high volume of patients they typically see as part of their residency prepare them to rapidly diagnose and treat patients of all ages and conditions. In fact, thousands of primary care physicians have become leaders in emergency departments across the country.

To attract qualified physicians, administrators of rural hospitals and practices can promote the benefits of working in rural America, such as:

  • The small-town atmosphere that offers the chance for a personal connection between physicians and patients
  • A low patient population that gives physicians more time to familiarize themselves with patients’ medical needs
  • Affordable housing
  • The relatively low crime rate
  • Outdoor recreational opportunities like camping, hiking, and bicycling

As a multi-specialty certification body that believes advanced training or certification is needed to ensure rural areas have access to well-trained physicians, the American Board of Physician Specialties® (ABPS) offers physician board certification in a variety of specialties, from traditional fields like family medicine to emerging specialties like integrative medicine. Furthermore, career emergency physicians with substantial experience, and either an appropriate residency or completion of an approved post-graduate fellowship, may be eligible to apply with our Member Board, the Board of Certification in Emergency Medicine® (BCEM). For more information about the ABPS, contact us today.

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I feel truly blessed and grateful to be an internal medicine board-certified diplomate with the American Board of Physician Specialties. Their ongoing, steadfast commitment to physician board(s) enhancement, forward focused vision, and tenacity is second to none. ABPS has become a recognized choice in Physician Board Certification.

Adam Rench, MD
Internal Medicine
To be the best, you must measure yourself against the best. Achieving Board Certification in Emergency Medicine by the ABPS gave me the opportunity to demonstrate mastery of the art of EM in an objective way. The high bar that ABPS sets for candidates to be allowed to take both the written and oral exam is a testament to ABPS's rigorous vetting of one's ability to practice Emergency Medicine at a high level. By maintaining these credentials, I've been able to instill confidence in my abilities at the department/employer level and ultimately with the patients that choose to seek emergency care at the facilities at which I practice.

Royce Mathew Joseph, MD
Emergency Medicine
The American Board of Physician Specialties has supported the entire field of Integrative Medicine in sponsoring our board. It has been so validating of the importance of prevention-oriented and holistic approaches to care while emphasizing the scientific basis of this specialty to have it recognized by ABPS. I am proud to have been one of the first groups to be board certified by ABPS in Integrative Medicine, leading the way for others committed to training in this specialty.

Myles Spar, MD
Integrative Medicine