The pandemic has led many physicians to question the next chapter in their lives, and how they’d like to spend it. For some, it appears an early departure towards partial (or even full) retirement is the answer, while others are seeking a better balance between work and life. At Jackson Physician Search, we’re seeing evidence of both – physicians are increasingly exploring new job opportunities.
In a recent MGMA webinar, Jackson Physician Search President Tony Stajduhar spoke about the market dynamics of healthcare recruitment by stating that up to 50,000 physicians were expected to accept new positions in 2020. Considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, much of this movement is predicted during the second half of the year.
Now, as the country continues to reopen, many hospitals and medical groups are resuming onsite interviews, opening the door for physicians to accept coveted new roles. With physicians reporting feelings of increased stress and burnout from the unrelenting COVID-19 patient volumes found in the hotspots, many doctors who previously would have gravitated for an urban position are considering rural practice opportunities.
Moving to the country – somewhere out in the middle of nowhere – isn’t something that many physicians envision for themselves or their families, but most rural communities aren’t as remote as you’d imagine. According to the census bureau, a rural area is defined as any population, housing, or territory that is not located in an urban center. In reality, that includes most of America.
Residents and Fellows as well as Physicians Transitioning to Partial Retirement May Find Rural Opportunities Particularly Enticing.
While nearly 20 percent of Americans live in rural areas, only about 10 percent of physicians are living and working in the same communities. Historically, rural healthcare facilities have had difficulty competing with their urban counterparts when filling physician vacancies, so they’ve adapted by offering several benefits often not as readily available to newly practicing physicians and those who are nearing the end of their careers. Let’s review, so you can decide if the next chapter of your life includes a relocation.
- Higher Compensation. Tony Stajduhar said in a NEJM article that recent placement data showed an additional 5 to 10 percent in starting salaries in rural opportunities compared to urban for some specialties. Higher signing bonuses may be available, too. For new physicians who are facing large student loan debts, a higher starting salary can make a big difference in building the life they envision.
- Lower Cost of Living. Rural locations often feature a lower cost of living, which is attractive for most anyone, but particularly so for young physicians buying their first home or retiring ones moving to their forever home. It also goes without saying that for those physicians seeking part-time employment as they transition to full retirement, the cost of living savings could be put to good use traveling or pursuing other hobbies.
- Better Work and Life Balance. Flexible schedules, or more control over it, are often a perk available to physicians who choose a rural setting. For younger physicians who are just starting a family, this means you’re able to be more present. Furthermore, some specialties aren’t needed on a full-time basis in every community, so this paves the way for an experienced physician to be paid very well for part-time work. And for those who live in cities like Atlanta, Los Angeles or New York, or any others known for the worst commutes, moving to a smaller community gives you back hours in your day.
- Open Lines of Communication with the CEO. In a smaller or rural practice setting, there is little to no bureaucracy to navigate. Physicians often have a direct line to the CEO, meaning that decisions get made faster, changes can be made to workflows more quickly, and dialogue is encouraged.
- Physicians are Key Stakeholders. When was the last time you were directly involved in deciding how your organization was managed? In a smaller community setting, you will find that your ideas are welcome, and you are part of a collaborative team all working with the same goals in mind. In a recent Jackson Physician Search survey, 43% of physician respondents cited more autonomy as an important attribute in their careers.
- Workplace Culture. In recent years, physicians have placed a greater emphasis on culture, values, and fit when considering new job opportunities. In a rural setting, you have a great deal of influence on the overall workplace culture, which is often appealing to early and late careerists who want to make their mark or leave a legacy, respectively.
- Community Involvement. While being an active member of the community isn’t for everyone, when you are a physician practicing medicine in a smaller practice setting, you are going to have the opportunity to be as involved as you want. Instantly having the respect of the community may even move you to step out of your comfort zone and act on your newly acquired “pillar of the community” status. Not surprisingly, in the aforementioned survey, physicians who were practicing in rural communities ranked their top reason for choosing to practice there as community culture.
COVID-19 continues to challenge us all, and it’s leading some physicians to look for new ways to manage such a high-stress career. It’s always wise to take time and evaluate career options, but that’s true now more than ever. If you have always been focused on staying within large, urban, and metropolitan hospitals and health systems, consider if the alternative is best for you. Smaller communities throughout the U.S. are medically underserved, and physicians who choose to practice there are making a difference in countless ways. Now just might be the perfect time for you to join them.
If you are actively considering your career options, or if you just want to see what types of opportunities are out there, contact the professional physician recruiters at Jackson Physician Search. Our team is comprised of experienced healthcare industry professionals who have nationwide contacts and the reach to help you secure your perfect practice setting.