A locum tenens staffing agency’s worst nightmare is to have a long list of assignments that go for months without being filled. The ugly truth is that such is the norm in some agencies with an unusually high number of rural assignments. It is just tough to recruit doctors willing to work in rural areas for months at a time. Everyone wants the glitz and glamor of the big city.
Successfully recruiting for rural assignments boils down to a single word that we do not like to associate with medicine: marketing. Just like the private practice doctor has to market his/her practice in order to compete, staffing agencies have to market rural assignments in order to get recruits to understand and embrace the benefits of said assignments. This is not a matter of lying, but of revealing the hidden truth. Rural assignments offer a lot of benefits that cannot be found in big cities.
Imagine taking a six-month assignment in downtown Los Angeles. The hospital may be one of the most prestigious in the nation, so there is a lot of incentive to take that assignment. But is it worth it to sit in traffic for three hours per day to get to and from work? Probably not. Any locum who thinks such things through will demand temporary housing close enough to the hospital to avoid the daily commute.
That’s fine, but what happens when the locum is off duty. Getting out of town to go enjoy a day of sightseeing still involves hours stuck in traffic. There is just no way around it. Unless, of course, a doctor is willing to accept a rural assignment. Rural assignments offer much easier commutes. Rural areas are a lot easier for traffic and, at the same time, more prone to wide-open spaces that make the daily commute so much more enjoyable.
Another disadvantage of big-city assignments is the hectic pace that goes with them. Life and work are completely different in rural areas. Rather than a fast-paced environment that sees patients coming and going like bees gathering honey for the hive, rural environments offer a much slower pace. That slower pace can make for a more enjoyable workday. Moreover, six months of more enjoyable workdays adds up to a more enjoyable assignment.
Locum tenens physicians who frequently take rural assignments are known to explain that they find them more fulfilling on both a personal and professional level. Why? Because patients in rural settings tend to be in desperate need of healthcare. They tend to be more appreciative of the doctors and nurses who serve them, and more understanding of the problems healthcare professionals face. It is a ‘count your blessings’ kind of thing. On the other hand, patients in big-city environments give very little thought to their doctors and nurses as people. They are just service providers.
Finally, there is a lot to be said about the beautiful scenery doctors can find in rural settings. Try enjoying a clear, starlit sky in the middle of Manhattan. It doesn’t work. Try appreciating the spectacular view of the evening sunset in smog-filled Chicago. Once again, it’s no dice.
Rural settings offer the opportunity to truly experience more of the natural world. The views are better, the sunrises and sunsets more striking, and the air much cleaner to breathe. It is all quite refreshing.
Successfully recruiting for rural assignments is a matter of emphasizing the positives and deemphasizing the negatives. Just explain to locums what they will gain by going rural. It works.