6 Reasons to Consider a Career in Rural Medicine

Posted on Mon, Aug 10, 2015
6 Reasons to Consider a Career in Rural Medicine

By Andy Scoggins

Nearly 25 percent of the U.S. population lives in a rural area, yet only 10 percent of the nation’s physicians practice there. There’s a shortage of qualified clinicians throughout the country, but in America’s least-populated areas, this dearth of doctors can mean the difference between life and death.

As medical professionals we’re hard-wired to go where we’re needed to serve our patients, yet for some, rural America is akin to Siberia. Here are six reasons you may want to reconsider a career in a “fly-over” state.

  1. Better Quality of Life: While practicing in larger cities may pay more, living in rural areas often costs less. You may be able to afford a larger home and more property, and you will probably sit in a lot less traffic! If you are nature-lover, most rural areas offer incredible hiking, fishing and biking opportunities, and who doesn’t love farm-fresh produce?

  2. Options to Lower Your Loans: Many states encourage physicians to practice in rural communities by offering financial incentives, including federal or state-funded student loan reimbursement or repayment programs. The amount of loan forgiveness usually increases each year that the physician continues to practice in the rural community.

  3. Ways to Expand Your Experience: Ever seen a snake bite or scorpion sting? Work in a rural area and you just might! Physicians in these areas often see cases that they might not normally come across in medical school or residency. Because a rural EM physician also serves as PCP, dentist, OB/GYN and more, they see a broader scope of chief complaints, and that’s experience you just can’t buy.

  4. Emphasis is on Technique, Not Technology: In many rural areas, access to high-tech diagnostic equipment and cutting-edge treatments isn’t readily possible. Rural EM doctors will need to rely on their more low-tech skills – palpation, data collection and H&P interviewing skills, including asking questions that might not seem common: interaction with livestock, access to dental services, access to preventive care. Your initial clinical evaluation and examination will be even more important when you don’t have access to the technologies that can hasten diagnosis.

  5. You Get to Be the Decider: In rural settings, it’s often a one-person show. You will need to be decisive, autonomous and authoritative. These are skills best learned through repetition and experience, and a rural post will offer you the ability to hone them. Of course, if you are fortunate to have a lot of clinician support, be collegial and collaborative, but odds are you won’t have residents, advanced practice providers or scribes to help with the work load. It may be all you, so be bold.

  6. You Become a Part of a Community: Yeah, urban trauma centers see a lot of action, but in a rural ED, you’ll interact with patients in a way you may never see in a larger city. Critical access hospitals are, as the name suggests, critical to the overall health of the community’s population. Your facility may be the only option for medical care for 100 miles. Your patients will appreciate you. They will trust you. And they will need your expertise and teaching skills to avoid another illness or injury. The need is real, but the reward is enormous. It can – and probably will – change the way you deliver care for the rest of your career.

Nearly 30 percent of EmCare’s clients serve patients in rural areas. Recruiting and retaining competent, committed physicians for these communities is one of our top goals. In fact, we’ve dedicated an entire division to this mission. For more information about a career in a rural hospital, including a Cost of Living Calculator, visit

Andy Scoggins is Chief Operating Officer of EmCare Physician Services.

Darius Cooper
9/22/2015 3:48:04 AM