Picture this: You stroll down a gravel road towards your favorite coffee shop. The smell of wildflowers wafts through the air as you pass by rolling hills speckled with grazing cattle. When you arrive, the barista already knows your order and greets you by name with a broad smile. One of your patients walks in – he’s in a great mood. His back is feeling much better since he last saw you! He picks up your coffee tab, playfully smacks you on the back, and says goodbye as you head out to start your shift…
While not all rural areas look exactly like this, it’s a common narrative. A whopping 90 percent of the United States is considered to be rural and suburban. In Florida alone, the U.S. Census Bureau defines over 86% of the land mass as rural (having a population less than 50,000 people).
There’s ample opportunity for medical professionals in these regions, and tons of benefits to ditching the hustle and bustle of urban life.
Here are just a few of them:
1. Higher quality of life
If the opening paragraph didn’t convince you already, how about some facts…if you decide to practice in an off-the-grid community, you may or may not be paid a higher salary. However, rural areas have significantly lower living costs. In small towns, medical professionals have the means to purchase large homes and own many acres of land. Beyond affordable housing, many of these locations offer good schools, low crime rates, and less stress. Imagine, NO TRAFFIC on your drive to work – or better yet, your walk to work. In addition, unlike metropolitan centres, you’ll have quick access to nature, along with activities such as camping, biking and hunting. If you have kids, rural areas offer an excellent atmosphere to get them off their iPads and playing outdoors.
2. Personable patient relationships
In small towns, most people know each other. There is a strong sense of community and comradery. When one person improves the life of another, news spreads like wildlife. For this reason, medical professionals are seen as heroes! Physicians in rural areas are free of quotas that dictate how many patients they can see per hour. This allows them to reconnect with the true roots of healthcare – helping those in need. In these locations, doctors and nurses are highly-respected. They are empowered to give each individual their deserved care and attention. According to the Becker Hospital Review, “The pace of rural life can increase job satisfaction. Physicians do not deal with the same business pressures of urban practices and can focus on patient care.” The ability to connect with each patient on a personal level brings a greater sense of joy and purpose to the job.
3. Better for your health
There is a stress pandemic in the United States these days. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, approximately 40 million American adults have an anxiety disorder. Many crave the fresh country air and slower-paced lifestyle that rural locations offer. For medical professionals, this is an achievable reality. Healthcare workers are desperately needed in these regions, with the ratio of physicians to patients currently being 1 to 2,500 for 60 million Americans. However, working in a remote location is not only good for the patients – it’s also beneficial for YOUR health. People who live near green landscapes have decreased levels of psychological disorders compared to those in urban centres, as per a study by the Victoria State Government. According to the study, participants also experienced a lower rate of sadness and depression. Compare this to the speeding cars, honking horns and wailing sirens that you find in big cities. It’s been shown that crowded streets like these negatively affect memory retention and make it challenging to focus. However, if you decide to practice in a rural area you may be able to refuel your energy that was zapped away in the busy city!
4. Lower student loans
As mentioned, there is a deficit of healthcare workers in rural areas. As such, many governments and hospitals work hard to incentivise physicians to relocate to small towns. Many medical professionals are faced with massive amounts of debt from school. The good news is that there are plenty of loan repayment/forgiveness options for practicing in Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSA). To find a list of HPSAs, check out this resource offered by The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).
5. Wealth of experience
Put simply: your job will be way more interesting working as a healthcare professional in a rural area! The physician to patient ration in these regions will necessitate that you become a jack-of-all-trades, giving you the opportunity to get your hands into different areas of medicine. Chances are that you’ll receive patients you would be unlikely to come across in urban centres. Jobs that might otherwise be passed off to a specialist will come to you, allowing you to see a wider scope of illness and injury. Ultimately, by gaining experience in a rural setting, you’ll be able to advance faster up the ranks.
Are you ready to practice in a rural area yet? Medical professionals are desperately needed and deeply appreciated in small towns. Working off-the-grid is not only good for your health and the health of your patients, it’s also good for the country at large. Next time you’re considering a new opportunity, set your sights beyond the big city…you’ll be glad you did.