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[White Paper] Rural Physician Recruitment and Staffing Survey Results

Jackson Physician Search
February 23, 2022

A new survey from Jackson Physician Search and – both part of the Jackson Healthcare family of companies – shows hope for rural healthcare organizations to make progress in resolving their physician staffing challenges.

We surveyed physicians currently working in urban, suburban, and rural settings to better understand their specific needs and wants in regard to choosing to practice in a rural location. When those in urban and suburban locations were asked what factors might influence their choice to practice in a rural location, only 10% said they would not consider a rural location at all. The reality that 90% would consider rural practice if the conditions are well-aligned is welcomed news. Interestingly, 72% of urban and suburban physicians reported they would be open to considering ‘trying out’ rural medicine via a locum tenens assignment. Not only does this strategy fill gaps in coverage in the short run, but it could present another path towards permanent recruitment.

This report includes:

  • Physicians’ sentiments on what they want in a permanent rural opportunity
  • Physicians’ views on rural locum tenens and recommendations for its strategic use
  • A snapshot of how COVID is impacting physician retirements and rural recruitment
  • Tips to more efficiently and effectively recruit physicians to rural healthcare by addressing key generational differences when marketing job opportunities


State of Rural Healthcare

The U.S. continues to face a severe physician shortage, and unfortunately, the impact of this is often multiplied in rural communities. Around the country, “healthcare deserts” exist, meaning that people who live in rural locations – a disproportionate number of whom live under the poverty level and in poorer health – often must travel long distances to seek anything from routine care to treatment for chronic conditions.

According to the National Conference of State Legislators, “Approximately one-fifth of the nation’s population lives in a rural area, but only about 10 percent of the nation’s physicians are located there. This is considered to be one reason rural Americans have higher rates of death, disability and chronic disease than their urban counterparts.” And, of the 7,200 federally designated health professional shortage areas, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) reports that 60% are in rural areas. A few trends are converging to make the challenge of recruiting and retaining physicians for rural healthcare positions even more challenging:

  • Physician retirements are imminent, with 40% of active physicians across the nation reaching age 65 within the next decade. Compounding this anticipated exit is the reality that the percentage is even higher in rural areas.
  • The Great Resignation is likely to hit rural areas hard. According to Jackson Physician Search’s own research in mid- 2021, 43% of the physicians surveyed said they were considering early retirement and 46% said they were considering leaving for a new healthcare employer. This particular study addressed physicians working in all geographic areas, rural included.
  • Rural-raised medical students have sharply declined, while overall medical school enrollment has increased. A 2019 study found that fewer than 5% of incoming medical school students came from rural areas. This is significant because we know that these are the ones most likely to practice in rural areas.

Every signal we’re receiving from both physicians and administrators tells us that it’s time to shake up the status quo in how rural healthcare organizations approach physician recruitment. If we’re going to realize the goal of creating better access to healthcare and improved health outcomes for rural Americans, then healthcare leaders need to reimagine how they source, recruit and retain physicians.

With that in mind, Jackson Physician Search and fielded this new research in October 2021, asking 1,311 physicians, 169 administrators, as well as 158 advanced practice providers, a series of questions to better understand the specific dynamics of working in rural, urban and suburban healthcare settings and what could be done to entice more providers to go rural. Of particular interest is sentiment broken down by the needs and desires of physicians by each generation, and our recommendations for recruitment and retention that take these differences into account.

With a focus on learning what it would take to increase the success of physician recruiting and physician retention practices in rural settings, we asked questions such as:

  • What would prompt you to work in a rural setting?
  • Would you be open to a locum tenens assignment that would enable you to “try out” practicing in a rural location?
  • What are the top attributes of your organization’s culture that appeal to you?
  • What factors would motivate you to stay at your current organization for at least five more years?

Additionally, COVID continues to influence the decisions physicians are making about their careers. Questions we asked included:

  • Has the experience of working in healthcare during the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated your plans for retirement?
  • For those working in rural healthcare, was COVID-19 the reason you chose it?

Download the White Paper to Get More Insight Into Rural Physician Recruitment and Staffing


For more information about how your healthcare organization can use the results of this survey to improve your physician recruitment and retention strategy, contact Jackson Physician Search today. Our team is made up of healthcare industry professionals who have spent decades recruiting physicians, physician leaders and advanced practice providers for healthcare organizations coast-to-coast.

And for more information about locum tenens staffing, please contact Since 1995, has been a full-service locum tenens agency. The need has never been greater to connect great clinicians and great healthcare facilities. recruiters work on specialty teams and focus only on one specialty. This way, medical recruiters learn the ins-and-outs and become recruiting specialists in each area.

About 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, physician leaders 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. Jackson Physician Search is part of the Jackson Healthcare® family of companies.

About specializes in the temporary placement of physicians, advanced practitioners and psychologists at healthcare facilities across the U.S. through onsite and telehealth services. As the industry’s most-visited job board, helps healthcare organizations connect with the medical professionals they need to ensure patients have access to quality care. Founded in 1995, is a leader in the healthcare staffing industry, helping place clinicians who deliver care to more than seven million patients in over 2,400 healthcare facilities in the U.S. is a Jackson Healthcare company. Learn more at

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