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The Need for Rural Physicians

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Rural physicians are those doctors who care for the people in small towns and communities of rural America. In addition to being the primary (or only) physician for people in these areas, they are community leaders and as valued and trusted as the priests and pastors of the town.

Rural physicians in decline

As the American economic foundation changes, the numbers of rural physicians has declined. With more and more jobs and money being centered in large urban areas, the economies of rural areas suffers tremendously. Because so many rural areas are in economic decline, fewer doctors are moving to these areas to set up practice.

The dilemma

Small towns and rural areas are caught in a vicious cycle. Industry and businesses may be interested in locating in rural areas as a cost saving measure and a ready supply of labor, but cannot do so if there is a lack of medical care. Therefore, the cycle begins: doctors will not consider rural areas because the economy tends to be poor, but in order to improve the local economy a community needs adequate medical services.

Addressing the shortage

Many small towns offer attractive incentives to bring physicians to their area. When these are paired with federal incentive programs, there are solid reasons for a doctor to choose this area of practice.

  • Tax incentives – small towns and communities have lower tax rates than urban areas. In some locations, town councils are willing to reduce or eliminate many business taxes for doctors who wish to relocate.
  • Housing – In order to attract qualified medical professionals, housing is offered either at no charge to the doctor or at considerably reduced prices and interest rates.
  • Federal programs – Depending on the specific economic factors of an area, federal programs exist that will reduce or retire the loans a medical student acquired to pay for his or her education. Another program, through the Department of Agriculture, is a mortgage program for first time buyers. Under this program, first time buyers can purchase homes for no money down and with terms and interest rates below industry averages.

Why practice in a rural area

There are times when it becomes necessary to realize that money is not everything. Rural physicians do make a good living, especially when compared to others in the community. But the trust, prestige, sense of identity and belonging, and the realization that a greater need is being met, is perhaps of greater value.

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