We hear about the ongoing physician shortage so frequently that it has become easy to ignore the discussion altogether. Yet ignoring what has become a profound problem is not going to help solve it. And even if we somehow manage to bring an end to the shortage in major cities, rural areas are still likely to suffer. One solution that has been quickly gaining popularity in the US is locum tenens jobs, where medical professionals can fill temporary jobs in a wide variety of settings.
According to Physicians Weekly contributor and healthcare staffing expert Bill Heller, locum tenens was created decades ago primarily to serve rural areas. It has since grown to become a nationwide phenomenon that serves big cities, small towns, and rural areas alike. Yet the needs are still most profound in rural America.
So how can we get more doctors to practice in rural areas? By pushing locum tenens emergency medicine. Beyond incentives like higher earnings and an opportunity to travel, there are three things that tend to drive doctors to rural locum emergency medicine.
1. The Opportunity to Give Back
One of the doctors Heller cited serves rural areas as a locum because he sees it as an opportunity to give back. This doctor grew up in rural America but, rather than attempting to escape by becoming a doctor, he has gone back to the environment he grew up in to serve patients in desperate need of medical care.
Far too often, escaping rural areas and moving to the big city is seen as a sign of success. Yet reality doesn’t always agree. The big city is not all it’s cracked up to be. For emergency medicine physicians, the city can actually be more than a rural-raised doctor bargained for. Inviting such doctors to return to their roots is a good way to go.
2. The Rewards of Rural Living
Another doctor Heller has worked with speaks of the rewards of rural living. Yes, treating patients in a rural setting is rewarding in and of itself. But so is living in a rural community. Rural living is ideal for doctors to love the great outdoors. It is perfect for biking, running, hunting, and on and on.
Some people prefer city life and all the excitement it has to offer. But how many big-city doctors would find rural life more rewarding if they just gave it a try? Inviting some of those doctors to take locum tenens emergency medicine jobs could end up changing a few lives.
3. An Opportunity to Do More
One last thing that drives doctors to rural emergency medicine locum assignments is an opportunity to do more. When you are working at a rural hospital not known for its extensive staff of specialists, you end up having to do more with less. How can this be a benefit? By giving doctors an opportunity to learn, grow, and expand their own practices.
Working in a big-city environment can lead to stagnation and sterility. Big-city emergency departments have all sorts of resources ready to be tapped, ultimately limiting what emergency room physicians can actually do. But in a rural environment, things are often the opposite. The same resources are not available, so emergency room physicians are more likely to do it all.
Heller acknowledges that the locum tenens solution cannot be the only solution for addressing the ongoing physician shortage. But at the same time, he believes locums can play a pivotal role in staffing underserved rural areas. He would love nothing more than to see more locum tenens providers at rural hospitals, providing emergency room patients with the vital care they need. It is probably safe to say that he isn’t alone in his thinking.