Skip to main content


Physician Recruiting Woes Build for Rural, Primary Care Positions

By Debra Shute  
   July 06, 2017

Small-town or rural communities appeal to less than 10% of practicing physicians and 3% of trainees.

Competition for physician talent remains fierce.

So healthcare organizations hoping to draw doctors to new practice opportunities must do so with a clear, distinctive message that addresses candidates' concerns, says Jamie Thomas, an executive vice president at the Medicus Firm, a physician recruiting agency.

The top motivating factors among physicians considering a career change are compensation (29.33%) and schedule/hours (16.7%), according to the firm's 2017 Physician Practice Preference & Relocation Survey.

These results are consistent with last year's survey, but the proportion of physicians indicating that retirement is a factor in their career choices nearly doubled since last year (from 9% to 16.75%).

Related: Orthos Top Physician Compensation List in 2017

Altogether, 17.22% of the 2,351 physicians surveyed across various specialties stated they were definitely or likely planning to make a career change within the next 12 months.

More than a quarter, however, (28.64%) said they were definitely NOT planning a change in the coming year, up slightly from 27.5% in 2016 but still well under the 43% intent on staying put in 2014.

Rural Pains

Among practicing physicians, major metropolitan areas are the most desirable geographies in which to work (35.8%), while small-town or rural communities appeal to just 8.12% of practicing physicians and 2.7% of trainees. And according to this year's survey, rustic life is becoming an even tougher sell, says Thomas.

"It's always been the case that rural communities paid a little more because they had to. But now, urban communities are actually paying equal to what they're paying in rural communities," he says.

On an even playing field compensation-wise, practices and hospitals are wise to emphasize lifestyle benefits such as flexible hours—and follow through on facilitating work-life balance.


  • 1

Debra Shute is the Senior Physicians Editor for HealthLeaders Media.

Get the latest on healthcare leadership in your inbox.