The Many Rewards of Rural Assignments for NPs
While most healthcare organizations feel the impact of the physician shortage to some degree, rural clinics and small critical access community hospitals continue to bear the brunt of it. That shortcoming, however, can create unique opportunities for nurse practitioners (NPs).
High demand for advanced practitioners
Several studies confirm the patient-to-primary care physician ratio in rural areas runs much higher than in urban communities, and the number of specialists per capita in country towns is even lower. The National Conference of State Legislatures reports 20 percent of the American population resides in rural regions, but only 10 percent of physicians call it home. According to the National Rural Health Association (NRHA), there are fewer than 40 doctors for every 100,000 people living in rural areas. And the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) confirms three out of five federally designated health professional shortage areas exist in rural areas.
However, NPs can alleviate some of that demand and increase people’s access to quality healthcare services. In fact, demand for locum tenens advanced practitioners across all medical specialties remains high in rural regions.
Critical access and autonomy
It’s likely the rural facility you are assigned to is the only one available in the immediate area, in which case you can expect to encounter a variety of illnesses and injuries, from the minor to the critical. NPs assigned to smaller facilities may take the lead on serious cases, including deciding when medical transport to a higher acuity hospital is necessary.
What’s more, you may have to conduct phone consults or employ other means to review diagnoses and treatment options. This arrangement offers NPs greater practice autonomy and the chance to broaden skills while giving patients the care they may not receive otherwise.
Stronger connections with patients
NRHA reports that, in general, patient satisfaction scores at rural facilities rate higher than at city hospitals. While it does not speculate on the reasoning for the more favorable impressions, the survey outcomes suggest locum tenens NPs will walk into a welcoming and supportive environment. Firsthand provider stories often relay tales of genuine connections formed with patients and co-workers at rural hospitals and clinics. This is even more true for locum tenens professionals who accept repeat contracts within these isolated communities.
“There is a comfort level in that they know you, and you know them. You build relationships through work and friendships,” says Kimberly Sperber, DNP, NNP-BC, a neonatal nurse practitioner with six years of experience accepting temporary assignments in rural communities.
Introduction to and lessons in cultural differences
Just like there are characteristic differences between New York City, Miami, and Seattle, no two small towns are exactly alike. Temporary jobs introduce providers to the uniqueness of a community. Living and working among residents enables you to experience the local culture, traditions, food, language, and of course, attitudes toward healthcare. This situational knowledge can be helpful for patient and family interactions as well as nuancing treatment to address cultural specifics.
“Knowing about different cultures has been interesting,” says Sperber. “I didn’t know anything about Native American tribes until I started going on these assignments.”
Slower pace with more personal space
“My primary job is in a large teaching hospital, but I want something different when I do locum tenens,” notes Sperber.
At least off the job, most rural communities run at a more laidback pace than life in larger cities. Even if that’s not your style full time, once in a while it feels good to slow down. Locums jobs in country locations encourage providers to refresh and refocus with more “me” time. As many healthcare professionals will attest, this break from the regular routine can help curtail symptoms of burnout.
Invitation to outdoor activities
Rural communities typically serve as the gateway to the great outdoors where you can take advantage of opportunities to engage in fresh-air activities like fishing, hunting, hiking, and camping. It’s easier to partake in seasonal sports, like water and snow skiing, snowboarding, and snowmobiling. Perhaps short-term jobs will bring you closer to national parks to visit, or simply avail you of new geography just waiting to be explored.
Rural locum tenens assignments present the chance for NPs to try out new experiences, both personally and professionally.
If you would like to find out where locum tenens can take you, contact All Star Healthcare Solutions today! Call 800-928-0229, or contact us online.