7 Physician Recruitment Strategies for Rural Hospitals

Recruiting physicians is a challenge under the best of circumstances. And at rural hospitals, there’s an extra level of difficulty in attracting and recruiting top-tier talent.

But practicing in rural communities can hold a lot of appeal to the right candidate; recruiters just have to know how and where to reach them. In this guide, you’ll find seven proven physician recruitment marketing strategies to help rural hospitals attract and hire qualified doctors.

#1: Understand the Landscape & Challenges of Physician Recruitment at a Rural Hospital

Before you take on the task of recruiting physicians to rural healthcare organizations, it’s helpful to understand the unique challenges these areas face.

Rural hospitals account for 35% of the nation’s hospitals, providing crucial care to the 46 million people—15% of all Americans—who call rural areas home. According to the CDC, residents of these regions are more likely to die from heart disease, cancer, unintentional injury, chronic lower respiratory disease, and stroke than their urban counterparts. These residents also tend to be older and sicker than their urban counterparts.

Yet, despite the great need for medical care in rural America, less than 10% of doctors practice in these regions and 80% of rural America is medically underserved. Looking into the future, an even more troubling picture emerges: The New England Journal of Medicine reported that fewer younger physicians are entering the rural workforce and the existing workforce is “graying and nearing retirement.” Almost a quarter of these older doctors are expected to retire by 2030.

Replacing retired doctors with young, new doctors won’t be easy. The Rural Health Information Hub cites a number of factors that make healthcare professionals reluctant to work in a rural setting, including a heavy workload, with a large number of patients to see and patients who require more care; difficulty taking time off; call frequency; professional isolation, and challenges in maintaining professional boundaries.

Family concerns, such as limited job opportunities for spouses, travel distances to attend school, the availability of afterschool programs and daycare, and lack of groups and other support for special interests and needs, are also a deterrent.

#2: Utilize a Virtual Recruitment Platform

What’s one way to address the persistent challenge of physician recruitment at a rural hospital? Virtual recruitment platforms provide a dynamic and efficient way to transcend the geographical barriers that might deter prospective candidates from considering your organization.

“A virtual recruitment platform gives rural hospitals a way to conduct interviews, give virtual tours of facilities, and host interactive sessions that showcase the hospital’s vital role in the community,” explains Anthony Gentile, managing partner at Adfire Health. “It’s a great way for recruiters to sell candidates on the virtues of their organization while accommodating the busy schedules of physicians and making it easier for them to explore opportunities in underserved, hard-to-get-to communities.”

Not sure how to get started? Adfire Health offers a seamless virtual hiring platform that empowers healthcare and physician recruiters to effortlessly connect with candidates and fast-track the hiring process—and hiring events take just minutes to set up.

#3: Target Local & Out-of-Town Physicians Using Proprietary Data

When you’re trying to attract qualified physicians to a rural hospital, a strategic approach can help you target the best prospects. Proprietary data can identify physicians who have personal or professional connections with your community and let you zero in on qualified providers who are more likely to find a rural lifestyle appealing. This can include people who grew up or already live in a country setting or chose to attend college or medical school in a rural area

You can also use data to widen your talent pool to a national audience. A physician relocation campaign is one of the best ways to successfully target qualified physicians who might be more likely to make a move to your area. For example, if you’re based in Texas and data shows that there’s an influx of people from California in your state, you may find that doctors who are currently practicing in California are predisposed to moving to your area.

A generous relocation package that offers a sign-on bonus and covers moving costs may be needed to provide an incentive for an out-of-state move.

#4: Highlight Your Employer Brand With Polished Collateral

Unlike their large, urban counterparts, smaller rural hospitals often operate in relative anonymity and struggle with employer brand recognition. This can deter potential recruits who may prefer employment at established “big-name” organizations.

To attract and retain top-tier talent, rural hospitals have to address their limited brand recognition head-on with polished collateral materials, like brochures, websites, and informational videos, that make a positive first impression. Well-written and -designed materials establish your organization as credible and professional and are an effective way to convey your mission, values, and commitment to serving the community while differentiating yourself from institutions in an urban or suburban setting.

To create effective materials, keep these best practices in mind: Copy should be concise and direct, the design should be clear with lots of white space, and photography should showcase your facility. For printed materials, don’t skimp on the paper stock—use a nice, heavyweight paper that doesn’t feel skimpy.

#5: Reach Physicians Across Channels

Physicians are busy and their skills are in demand, making it difficult to break through the clutter of all the other organizations and marketers vying for their attention. There are many ways to post your open jobs—job boards, email, website listings—but for your job search to be effective, you have to launch a multi-channel campaign.

At Adfire Health, we can help you source top clinical talent on every channel: email, direct mail, display ads, social media, search ads, and programmatic job advertising. We even have an in-house creative team that can create and design compelling, purpose-driven messaging that highlights the unique aspects of your hospital or health system, such as innovations in care, a supportive work culture, or opportunities for professional development.

#6: Optimize. Optimize. Optimize.

But even the best creative messaging benefits from optimization. Start with clearly defined objectives, then implement A/B testing to experiment with how well different ad formats, headlines, and visuals perform across a variety of channels.

“You should also be continuously leveraging analytics tools to track KPIs like click-through rates and conversion rates,” Gentile says. “Regularly analyze the data to see what’s performing and what’s not, and adjust your campaign accordingly so your budget is going toward the most successful channels.”

Continuous monitoring and optimization based on your real-time data insights will enhance the overall effectiveness of your campaign, driving better results and maximizing your advertising ROI.

#7: Follow Up With Engaged Physician Candidates Religiously

The adage “strike while the iron is hot” holds true when you’re recruiting physicians for a rural setting. Once you’ve identified qualified candidates, don’t leave it to them to take the next step. Get back to them with answers to questions promptly and move quickly to schedule the next step in the interview process or make an offer.

This is especially important if your hiring process is slow: candidates like to be in the loop, so even if you aren’t ready for the next step, send them a message about the status of their application and your anticipated next steps.  

“We’ve seen time and time again that organizations that are thorough and consistent in following up with interested candidates are more likely to move those candidates to the next level,” Gentile explains. “Doing so is more than just a way to keep in touch: This responsiveness signals to candidates that your organization cares about creating a nurturing and supportive workplace.”

Get Started with Your Rural Physician Recruitment Campaign

As the physician shortage continues to get worse, physician recruitment at a rural hospital will only get more challenging. These seven strategies can help you attract the talent you need so your hospital can continue to provide care for the patients in your community.

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