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New JPS Survey Shows Rural Hospitals Rank Compensation Two Times More Important Than Culture for Physician Recruitment

Jackson Physician Search
July 31, 2019

Atlanta (July 25, 2019) – The challenge of recruiting and retaining physicians to work in rural communities has reached a new level of urgency for health systems. While hospital administrators often think compensation is the top factor influencing a physician’s decision to practice in a rural setting, a new survey conducted by Jackson Physician Search, a firm specializing in the permanent recruitment of physicians and advanced practice providers to hospitals and other healthcare providers, shows otherwise.

The research, which involved surveying both rural doctors and health system administrators, indicated that rural hospital administrators over-emphasize compensation and under-emphasize community culture during the physician recruitment process. Only 28 percent of physicians rank compensation as the top factor when considering a rural practice, while 40 percent of hospital administrators rank it No.1 in importance.

“Compensation will always be a driving factor in recruitment and retention, but this survey confirms how a variety of less easily quantified factors play as important a role in rural physicians’ practice location decisions,” said Tony Stajduhar, president, Jackson Physician Search. “It’s vital for hospital administrators to understand that physicians place heavy emphasis on other aspects such as community and workplace culture when considering accepting a position in a smaller, rural or community health setting or staying in that position—especially as the national physician shortage increases.”

More than 78 percent of physicians in the Jackson Physician Search survey were currently practicing in a community of less than 25,000.

Among the survey’s other findings:

  • Physicians want autonomy, but hospital administrators don’t realize it. Forty-three percent of physicians ranked autonomy among the top-three attributes of culture, while only 17 percent of administrators did.
  • A retention bonus is not as important to physicians as administrators think. Nearly 20 percent of administrators indicated that they felt a retention bonus would be a factor that compelled physicians to stay for the next five years, yet that incentive barely registered as a response (from only 3 percent of doctors).
  • Rural physicians’ roots run deep, yet hospital administrators may not be leveraging the draw of their communities to the fullest. Nearly 68 percent of the physician respondents had roots in a rural community during their lifetimes. In many cases, they, their spouse or partner, or extended family were raised in a rural community.

“Overall, our survey has shown that while compensation and other financial incentives matter, other factors swing the decision to accept an offer to practice in a rural community,” said Stajduhar. “Rural health system administrators have to develop a culture that is attractive to physicians and more importantly demonstrate their unique―and opportunity-filled―environment throughout the recruitment process. The cliché ‘it takes a village’ most assuredly applies to rural medicine and shouldn’t be discounted as a selling point.”

Administered in fall 2018, the Jackson Physician Search survey presented 23 questions about the advantages and challenges providers face in rural medicine. More than 150 physicians provided their responses about a wide range of issues including the top attributes of their organization, whether those attributes were highlighted during the recruiting process, and their own levels of personal and professional fulfillment, among other key topics. From the survey presented to rural health system administrators, 105 respondents shared their views to the same questions provided to the physicians.

The complete report on the survey results, titled “Rural Physician Recruitment: Results from the 2019 Rural Physician and Administration Survey,” is available here:

Jackson Physician Search

Jackson Physician Search is an established industry leader in physician recruitment and pioneered the recruitment methodologies standard in the industry today. The firm specializes in the permanent recruitment of physicians and advanced practice providers for hospitals, health systems, academic medical centers and medical groups across the United States. Headquartered in Alpharetta, Ga., the company is recognized for its track record of results built on client trust and transparency of processes and fees. For more information, visit

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