Rural Healthcare: How to Recruit and Attract Clinical Talent in Rural & Remote Areas

Healthcare providers in rural areas face unique obstacles when it comes to recruiting and retaining clinical talent. The growing shortage of nurses and physicians coupled with declining regional populations makes it more challenging than ever for rural healthcare organisations to attract physicians, nurses and other specialised clinical professionals. In this post, we cover the recruiting challenges faced by rural healthcare organisations and actionable advice on how to overcome them with smart talent acquisition strategies.

Regional Healthcare Challenges

The Australian Department of Health has released a Work Incentive Program for practices that are experiencing challenges in recruiting and retaining clinical talent. Recruiting and retaining clinical professionals in these underserved rural communities remains a significant challenge for states and governments and healthcare organisations. Economic, educational, professional and cultural dynamics affect the clinical talent shortages in rural areas including the following factors:

  • Many universities and institutions of higher learning are located in more urban regions, limiting rural healthcare organisations recent graduate talent pool.
  • Access to professional development and education programs may be limited in rural areas which can discourage candidates looking to further their career training and education.
  • Candidates with experience working in urban areas may not be prepared for or willing to adapt to the culture and lifestyle changes inherent with living in rural communities.
  • Rural healthcare organisations may not have enough opportunities for career advancement within the organisation.
  • Rural healthcare organisations often face understaffing leading to increased workloads, extended shifts and less scheduling flexibility.
  • Urban healthcare organisations may be able to offer more competitive salaries, benefits and better working conditions.
  • Rural communities may offer fewer career opportunities for spouses and children of candidates.

Recruiting Strategies for Rural Healthcare Organisations

To overcome recruiting challenges, rural healthcare organisations need to employ various strategies focused on attracting and retaining clinical talent. Below, we list four approaches rural healthcare organisations can utilise to source, hire and retain clinical talent.

Recruit Foreign-Born Talent

Rural healthcare providers should not limit their talent search locally. Federal programs like 5 Year OTD Scheme are created for foreign-born physicians to be accepted into the program, they must agree to work in a Health Professional Shortage Area.

Maintain a Steady Candidate Pipeline

The healthcare talent shortage has placed a premium on clinical healthcare workers. Rural healthcare organisations have to reconcile the fact that some of their talent may be lured away by offers from competitors in more attractive locations. To stay ahead of talent attrition, rural healthcare organisations need to build and maintain a verdant candidate pipeline. Below we share strategies on how to build and cultivate relationships with potential candidates:

  • Healthcare organisations should position themselves as rural training sites for medical students, primary care residents, nurses and other clinical roles looking to experience healthcare in a rural setting.
  • Staff members should be encouraged to network and cultivate a rapport with potential candidates at medical conferences, professional development workshops, networking events and trade shows.
  • Recruit traveling nurses, physicians and locum tenens clinical professionals who may also be on the lookout for permanent practice opportunities.
  • Recruiters for rural healthcare organisations should be provided with subscriptions to candidate sourcing services and encouraged to reach out to candidates who have experience working in rural healthcare.

Sell the Community to Candidates

Many candidates may have preconceived notions regarding rural communities — and not all of them positive. To assuage a candidate’s doubts about working and living in a rural setting, it is important for healthcare organisations to highlight the strengths and positive attributes of their community. Recruiters can point to the lower cost of living in the community and how that can make the compensation packages more attractive. Elements of a community’s culture such as recreational and leisure activities, natural beauty, festivals, fairs, the arts scene, spiritual and religious institutions and a community’s character may make the position more attractive once highlighted. Additional factors such as the community being a good place to raise children, an opportunity for more professional independence and the chance to offer more personable patient care are all positives that can be presented to interested candidates.

Conclusion

For rural healthcare organisations facing recruiting and retention challenges, employing some of the approaches and strategies outlined in this blog will help attract vital clinical talent. Improved talent acquisition, in turn, will enhance the quality of care rural healthcare organisations provide to their communities.