Opportunities in Rural Health Care

health care careers

There are opportunities to work in health care just about anywhere you look. The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows health care careers among the fastest-growing industries in the country. They’re expected to grow 27 percent between now and 2024. But that doesn’t mean that all the good opportunities in health care careers reside only in the cities. Great opportunities exist for health care careers in rural and outlying areas. Most pay well and afford flexibility not always available in big-city positions.

The Rural Health Research & Policy Centers, funded by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy, have released a series of briefs that outline many of the rural health care careers that are out there, what they entail and what to expect. The following is a bit of what those briefs had to say on the subject. It might be what some of our Concorde students and graduates, especially those in Nursing fields or Medical Assistant roles, are looking for.

The rural health care careers workforce

An effective health care system relies upon an integrated and multidisciplinary workforce educated in a wide variety of skills. Health care in rural settings, however, has been compromised by the uneven distribution and relative shortage of medical care providers. Rural communities struggle to recruit and retain a workforce while larger communities experience surpluses of health care professionals. Many rural towns lost health care providers in the 1980s and never filled those voids.

Registered nurses (RNs) comprise nearly half of health care providers in rural areas. Licensed practical nurses (LPNs) are the second-largest group. Rural jobs are increasingly found in the service sector, including health care services.

Factors that affect delivery of health care in rural areas

Populations are aging and will demand more health care services in the future. Rural populations tend to be older than urban populations. Residents have higher rates of chronic disease and poverty than urban residents. Rural populations are more likely to be underinsured or uninsured. Hospitals and clinics tend to be smaller than in urban areas.

The scope of care is often more limited in rural settings. Providers deliver more general services. Lower reimbursement rates for primary care or general services make it difficult for rural health care practices to remain financially stable. Transportation and associated costs can be a barrier to accessing care for many rural residents.

Other things to consider in rural health care careers

Educational opportunities to upgrade skills and to pursue professional development are more limited in rural settings. Growing proportions of primary care physicians are women, and women are less likely than men to practice in rural areas. The future supply of rural health care providers is threatened by the marked decline in interest in family medicine.

Rural health care systems rely on an adequate supply of well-trained providers who understand the needs of rural areas. Research indicates that physicians tend to practice near where they received their educations. However, only 7.3 percent of family medicine residency training takes place in rural areas, where roughly 20 percent of the U.S. population lives.

This has led to the shortage of health care providers in rural areas. That leads to an abundance of great opportunities for those in health care careers, including Concorde students and graduates.

“Health care professionals receive incentives, such as bonuses, scholarships or loan forgiveness, to work in these areas after working there so many years,” said Danielle Van der Knaap, Graduate Employment Specialist at Concorde’s campus in San Antonio, Texas. “It does help people that are not able to travel far distances and is convenient.”

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