Physician recruitment and retention in rural and underserved areas

Dane M. Lee (Graduate Program of Nurse Anesthesia – Doctorate of Nurse Anesthesia Practice, Texas Wesleyan University, Fort Worth, Texas, USA)
Tommy Nichols (School of Business Administration, Texas Wesleyan University, Fort Worth, Texas, USA)

International Journal of Health Care Quality Assurance

ISSN: 0952-6862

Publication date: 5 August 2014



The purpose of this paper is to identify the challenges when recruiting and retaining rural physicians and to ascertain methods that make rural physician recruitment and retention successful. There are studies that suggest rural roots is an important factor in recruiting rural physicians, while others look at rural health exposure in medical school curricula, self-actualization, community sense and spousal perspectives in the decision to practice rural medicine.


An extensive literature review was performed using Academic Search Complete, PubMed and The Cochrane Collaboration. Key words were rural, rural health, community hospital(s), healthcare, physicians, recruitment, recruiting, retention, retaining, physician(s) and primary care physician(s). Inclusion criteria were peer-reviewed full-text articles written in English, published from 1997 and those limited to USA and Canada. Articles from foreign countries were excluded owing to their unique healthcare systems.


While there are numerous articles that call for special measures to recruit and retain physicians in rural areas, there is an overall dearth. This review identifies several articles that suggest recruitment and retention techniques. There is a need for a research agenda that includes valid, reliable and rigorous analysis regarding formulating and implementing these strategies.


Rural Americans are under-represented when it comes to healthcare and what research there is to assist recruitment and retention is difficult to find. This paper identify the relevant research and highlights key strategies.



M. Lee, D. and Nichols, T. (2014), "Physician recruitment and retention in rural and underserved areas", International Journal of Health Care Quality Assurance, Vol. 27 No. 7, pp. 642-652.

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