As a surgeon, I commonly get asked by family, friends, and patients why I chose to work in rural America. I get it; why work in rural America if I live in a big city in the USA?
Here is my deal… I live in a large city with three professional sports teams, plenty of outdoor activities, and great food… yet I don’t want to work there. I prefer to keep my professional life separate from my personal life. Thus, I choose to live in one city and travel to work in another. I am happier this way and have found an outstanding work-life balance.
For some, this may seem wild, but why? I love traveling to rural America to practice medicine!
Why would I choose to work in a community where I don’t live full-time? Because I have found rural America to be a pleasant place to practice medicine without the stressors of medicine in more significant, busier cities. This blog provides ten reasons why I choose to work in rural America and why you might also want to consider doing it.
- The staff gives a sh*t. Much of the hospital’s staff grew up in the surrounding area and cared about their local communities. To them, it’s more than just a job; it’s a way to care for their fellow man (or woman). I often hear from operating room staff how they know my surgical patients from high school or the local grocery store. The staff cares about these people and wants to see them do well, which makes it easier to practice medicine (and do surgery).
- Great patient population. Some of the best people to treat are found in rural America. What I have discovered about rural America is that these folks want to be treated locally rather than traveling to bigger cities. They appreciate the physicians who can treat them locally rather than traveling three hours to a more extensive facility. More so, folks in rural America have more reasonable expectations about their medical care, making it easier to practice medicine.
- Patient families are more involved. In rural America, more families are present to speak with physicians. Practicing medicine is more manageable when I have a family to talk with in person rather than tracking them down by phone.
- Administrators are accessible. Unlike larger healthcare systems in big cities, many of these rural hospitals have administrators who are easily accessible to address your patient concerns. Many of these administrators grew up in these small communities and recognized the value of physicians in the area.
- Slower pace. I am not trying to say that hospitals in rural America run at “Forest Gump-like” speed, but the urgency and bustle seen at more extensive facilities is not always there. Working at a slower pace might not be something you are accustomed to, but you can certainly get used to it.
- Collegiality and culture. Physicians in rural America emphasize getting to know each other and playing well together- something only sometimes seen at larger, busier facilities.
- Physician Lounges. I am still looking for a facility in rural America that does not offer an excellent physician lounge for physicians to eat and socialize with one another.
- Less stress. Rural facilities make more effort to accommodate physicians to lessen their stress and improve their work-life balance.
- Good pay. Let’s face it: medicine is not an altruistic profession. We may love medicine, but most would not do it for free. It’s good to be paid well!
- Smaller hospitals. Big hospitals are fun, but who said I wanted to get 10,000 steps in during my workday? I prefer smaller hospitals where everything is close by.
Rural America provides physicians with a unique opportunity to make a real difference in people’s lives. Physicians who work in rural areas can often build close relationships with their patients, staff, colleagues, and administrators, which can be incredibly rewarding. For all of these reasons and more, physicians should seriously consider working in rural America like me!