As the backbone of their communities, rural hospitals play a crucial role in providing essential medical services for underserved areas, but they face unique challenges when it comes to healthcare recruitment.
In this post, we share a 7-point plan for recruiting healthcare professionals to rural areas. From understanding how to target the right prospects to implementing innovative outreach strategies, we provide a clear and actionable roadmap for successfully recruiting and hiring top-tier talent for your rural healthcare organization.
#1: Research Migration Data
If you’re hiring healthcare workers in a bustling metropolis, it’s easy to find out which cities are relocation draws. But if you’re based in a rural area and you want to know where clinicians are moving to your area from, you need to get a little more creative. Tapping into migration data can provide you with valuable insights into where you should be targeting potential candidates.
For example, thousands of people moved to the rural South in 2021, and the overwhelming number of those people came from cities and suburbs within the South, while only 1% of those people came from the Mid-Atlantic states. If you’re a hospital in the rural South, you can use this information to focus your hospital recruitment plan on healthcare workers in southern cities who are more likely to be predisposed to moving to your location.
#2: Communicate Your Healthcare Employer Brand
Establishing an employer brand is essential for healthcare recruiting no matter where you live—studies show that organizations that invest in their employer brand see 50% more qualified applicants—but it’s especially important if you are recruiting for a rural hospital and vying with big-name, big-city hospitals for the same talent pool.
Employer branding tells your story, establishes the mission that drives your employees, creates an emotional connection to your brand, and sets you apart from other hospitals. Start with an employee value proposition that succinctly explains what makes your hospital a great place to work and use quotes and stories from real employees on all your marketing collateral to authentically bring your story to life.
#3: Look for Candidates with a Rural Background
According to a National Center for Biotechnology Industry (NCBI) study, 70% of rural providers had a rural background.
When you’re recruiting healthcare professionals to a rural area, start with the low-hanging fruit and identify physicians and other healthcare workers who grew up or already live in a small community. Think of it this way: It’s much easier to convince someone who has already lived the good life in a small town to move to a rural area than it is to convince a lifelong city dweller that they’ll love living in the country.
#4: Start Early
A strategy many rural hospitals have embraced is to not just recruit doctors, nurses, and other workers from rural backgrounds but to actually cultivate the next generation of rural medical practitioners. You may want to consider taking a page from this playbook and setting up a program that identifies promising local students and provides incentives to help them pursue their dreams of a career in healthcare. This can include covering tuition loans in exchange for a commitment to serve in your community after graduation.
If you’re hiring doctors, targeting medical residents is another effective rural hospital recruitment strategy. Currently, only 2% of residency training occurs in rural areas, but studies show that family medicine residents who spent 50% or more of their training time in rural settings were at least five times more likely than residents with no rural training to take up practice in a rural setting.
#5: Highlight the Benefits of Rural Hospitals
Candidates who have only lived and trained in urban or suburban areas might not understand the appeal of small-town life. Your rural hospital recruitment process should bring these benefits to life by highlighting the bright side of working in a small community, which can include a better work/life balance, higher pay and lower cost of living, and close patient relationships.
Be sure to stress increased job satisfaction. As Becker Hospital Review reported, “The pace of rural life can increase job satisfaction. Physicians do not deal with the same business pressures of urban practices and can focus on patient care.”
Additionally, most rural hospitals provide full-spectrum medical services but are provider-led, which can create a much more appealing work environment. And because the organization is smaller, there’s a greater opportunity to be a big fish in a small pond and take on leadership roles earlier.
If you’re located in a Health Professional Shortage Area, your recruitment materials should also point out that candidates may be eligible for loan repayment/forgiveness options.
And don’t forget to play up the personal appeal of living in a place with no rush hour traffic and easy access to nature and outdoor activities.
#6: Develop a Referral Program
If you don’t already have a referral program in place, what are you waiting for? Employee referrals can be one of the best tools to recruit new candidates. It’s an excellent strategy for sourcing candidates who are aligned with your hospital’s values and vision, and the cost of a referral bonus is typically much lower than the amount you’d spend on traditional recruitment.
For example, you could spend an estimated $35,000 on recruitment advertising, marketing, exhibiting, search firm fees, travel, and entertainment to source and hire a new physician. Plus, it’s a nice benefit for your workforce, making a referral program a win-win for your entire team.
Additionally, referral hires tend to be better performers and have a higher retention rate than non-referrals, and their time-to-hire is dramatically faster, according to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).
#7: Utilize Data & Omni-Channel Marketing Campaigns
Want a game-changing strategy for rural recruitment? Using data to deploy an omni-channel marketing campaign allows for a targeted and personalized approach that delivers real results.
Start by tapping into healthcare worker data from a comprehensive database to identify your best potential candidates. Create consistent, compelling messaging for your rural hospital recruitment campaign and deploy that messaging across various platforms—email, social ads, digital ads, programmatic ads, landing pages, direct mail, and virtual solutions.
And remember this isn’t a one-and-done approach. You need to continuously optimize the campaign to improve performance so you can hire and attract potential candidates, build a robust talent pipeline, and reduce your time to fill.
Ready to Put This 7-Point Plan Into Action?
Adfire Health can help you win at rural recruitment. Click here to learn how we can help you check all the boxes and attract top-tier talent to your hospital.