Do you need a break from the hustle and bustle of the busy city life? Are you looking for a nice, quiet space to relax? Well, it sounds like you’re in need of a change of pace and what better way to do that than to head to a rural community for your next travel assignment?!
The Demand for Medical Travelers in Rural Communities
There are tons of jobs for med travelers in rural communities across the country and even more perks to living and working in a rural area! Want to find out more? I’m so glad you’re here. Let’s dive in.
What’s considered a rural community?
What pops into your mind when you hear “rural area”? Is it cowboys on horseback rounding up some type of livestock? Is it corn and wheat fields? Maybe red barns, small towns, and pleasant folk? Rural life looks different depending on where you are in the U.S. For example, areas of rural Nebraska are swimming in cornfields to help produce over one billion bushels of “high-quality corn,” according to the Nebraska Corn Production.
The Census Bureau defines “rural” as “any population, housing, or territory not in an urban area.” So, with that definition, rural areas would include your livestock pastures, fields, barns, small towns, and pleasant folk—all the things we thought it would be. And then some like:
- A small population size and generally low population density
- A lower cost of living
- More nature and natural resources
While there are many pros to living and working in a rural community, before we get there, we first need to understand the medical workforce shortage these areas face. Strap in.
The shortage of rural medical professionals explained
According to the National Library of Medicine, roughly 20 percent of the American population live in rural areas. Although that equates to several million people across the nation, there’s still a shortage of virtually every type of nurse, therapist, radiology and lab tech, and other medical professionals in these rural communities. Why?
You already know that there’s a labor shortage of talented medical professionals like yourself in the U.S. Part of the dilemma is a population spike, plus a rapidly aging population. Here’s what we mean: The American population is expected to grow by 18 percent by 2030 and the number of people over the age of 65 is projected to increase three times that rate, meaning more and more people will require specialized care on both sides of the aging spectrum. However, the average age of a nurse in the U.S. is 52 years old and by 2030, at least a million nurses are expected to retire. So, what we’re going to see is a greater need for patient-centered care and less qualified medical professionals to provide care.
Another factor that contributes to the medical shortage in rural communities is maldistribution, the uneven distribution of medical professionals across the country. Since larger cities and urban areas tend to have more options for hospitals and other medical care facility workplaces, more travel nurses and allied medical professionals gravitate towards those locations.
But here’s the thing: A rural hospital is usually one of the largest employers in its community. In fact, according to a report by the National Center for Rural Health Works, rural critical care access hospitals have, on average, 195 employees and $8.4 million in payroll. Overall, the health sector contributes to about 14 percent of the total employment in rural America. Is it possible there are more rural job opportunities out there than we originally thought?
So, what’s the solution to this rural shortage of medical professionals? Like most things in life, it’s not an easy one, or one that’s straightforward. Instead, this complex problem has many solutions that are equally as complex. Here’s how you can use your medical knowledge, skills, and expertise to make a move in the right direction: Find a med travel job in a rural community.
5 reasons to take a rural travel job
Going from an urban or suburban setting to a rural community can be an adjustment, but for many, it’s a worthwhile one. According to data from the National Association of REALTORS, rural communities had a peak of inbound moves during the first half of 2021. Discover why more Americans are flocking to rural areas and find out why you might, too:
No. 1: Relish in a more relaxed pace of life
In a rural community, you can enjoy the luxury of walking down the street encompassed more by nature and less by people. Sure, cities offer convenient access to an endless number of stores, activities, cars, and people. But did you know that the constant noise and fast-paced energy can take a toll on your mental and physical health? A study found that individuals who lived in the country responded better to stress compared to their city neighbors. Because rural living offers peace and quiet, personal space, and the chance to incorporate relaxation into your life, it better equips you for when those stressful situations hit.
No. 2: Save a pretty penny with affordable housing options
You may think that working in a big-time metropolitan hospital will earn you a greater paycheck, and while it might on paper, the results differ in reality. Think about it: In the city, you may pay as high as $4,000 for monthly housing rent, depending on your location. According to Forbes, the average cost of rent in a U.S. city is $1,848, while the average monthly rent for rural housing is $1,269 per month—a $500+ difference.
If you’re in search of regions with lower rents in general, don’t pass up the Midwest or the American South, Forbes said. Rural areas outside of cities like Kansas City, Missouri; Omaha, Nebraska; and Louisville, Kentucky all have relatively low costs of living with the average rent being less than $1,000 a month. Check it out for yourself.
No. 3: Enjoy enhanced level of privacy
When you live and work in a city, oftentimes you’re sharing walls, ceilings, and floors with neighbors. And if you’re not, then you’re probably within earshot or sharing an awkward eyeline view of your neighbor’s bathroom or bedroom from your own, so every time you enter the room, you have to check to make sure they’re not there creeping. We’ve all been there, right?
Well, with rural living, you don’t really have that. Sure, if your temporary housing is an apartment, you may still share walls, ceilings, and floors with next door neighbors, but even then, the country vibe is more board games and less frat parties like in a city. Plus, in a rural community, there’s less likely to be people walking around or cars zooming by on the streets nearby your home, offering more peace, quiet, and privacy.
No. 4: Practice with more professional autonomy
As we’ve already learned, there are fewer medical professionals working in rural hospitals as compared to urban and suburban areas. And a limited number of medical experts creates an opportunity to practice what you do best with more professional and personal autonomy. Working in a rural medical setting allows for more independence and self-sufficiency than you may see in a more populated facility. Who doesn’t love a little extra freedom?
No. 5: Engage in opportunities to advance your medical career
Just like there may be more professional autonomy in rural med settings, there are also opportunities to take your career to the next level in more ways than one. First, working in a smaller facility will give you more responsibility and provide the chance to work in more areas of the facility. Second, providers who work in rural areas tend to see a wider variety of cases and get to learn about health conditions that are more common in that community. Third, rural patients are often underserved, and in offering treatment, you’ll gain a greater sense of purpose and meaning.
“Rural medicine is very rewarding,” said Amitabh Chandra, director of health policy research at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. “It’s a lot of hard work, and as a provider, you are going to find yourself wearing many hats, but it feels like you are doing something really meaningful. I wish more people could see that.”
“People go to medical school for all kinds of different reasons,” said David Schmitz, MD, chair of the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the University of North Dakota and past president of the National Rural Health Association. “But if the reason is to make a real difference, there are very few opportunities that offer as many ways to make a real difference as rural medicine. You just won’t know that until you actually practice it.”
ICYMI (in case you missed it), there’s an overwhelming demand for medical professionals in rural areas across the U.S. Want to help? Consider a travel job in a rural setting and make your mark on the community. Gain more knowledge and grow both professionally and personally. Who knows, maybe small town life is the life for you!