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Rural Physician Recruitment with a Twist

Alexandra Wilson Pecci, for HealthLeaders Media, January 4, 2012

During the years that Benjamin Anderson worked in physician recruitment, he says they'd "roll out the carpet" when trying to draw traditional candidates to rural areas.

"We would show them all the nice homes and best teachers and the who's who, and avoid the ghettos and avoid the unsightly places, and make sure they didn’t see the underlying issues or the stinky, smelly places in town," says Anderson, who's now CEO of Ashland Health Center, a 24-bed critical access hospital, long-term care unit, and rural health clinic in Ashland, Kansas.

But over the past several months, Anderson has turned the traditional method of physician recruitment on its head, emphasizing his rural Kansas town's isolation and healthcare access issues in an effort to draw a different kind of physician: missionaries.

Anderson says the hospital is trying to tell mission-minded physicians that they don’t need to live overseas in order to help people in need.

"The person who's willing to live in a mud hut in the bush in Africa isn't bothered because they're two hours from a Starbucks," Anderson says. "Take exactly the opposite approach to recruiting a mission-minded professional as you would a traditional candidate."

When Ashland's only physician left a few years ago, the hospital was left with a single physician assistant, who worked practically alone for almost two years.

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