Rural Healthcare Workforce
Healthcare workforce is essential to providing healthcare access and quality in rural areas. Rural healthcare facilities must not only have an adequately sized health workforce, but those professionals must be able to meet the needs of the community in many ways, such as having proper licensure, education and training, and cultural competency skills.
Having adequate healthcare providers in rural areas requires efforts on the part of numerous entities including local citizens, other healthcare providers, and state and federal government policymakers. These entities have a better understanding of the complexity and nature of rural health workforce issues and concepts. In addition, the use of, and coordination among, the workforce must be optimized to ensure that patients are getting the best care possible. Strategies that can be employed include:
- Implementing interprofessional care teams to provide efficient and coordinated care for patients and extend the reach of each provider
- Ensuring that all professionals are fully utilizing their skill set and working at the top of their license
- Removing barriers to practice, which exist at the state and federal levels, for established professions
- Changing policy to allow alternative provider types once evidence shows they can provide quality care
As the nation struggles with shortages of healthcare providers, a maldistribution of those workers means that shortages are often more profound in rural areas of the country. This maldistribution of health providers is a persistent problem affecting the United States healthcare system.
This guide looks at the economics, policy, and planning issues and challenges related to rural health workforce, including:
- Supply and demand
- Distribution of the workforce
- Characteristics of the rural health workforce
- Licensure, certification, and scope of practice issues
- Programs and policies that can be used to improve the rural health workforce
Frequently Asked Questions
- Why is there a healthcare workforce shortage problem in rural areas?
- What are the characteristics of the current rural healthcare workforce?
- What state-level policies and programs can help reduce and address the problems of rural healthcare workforce shortages?
- What can health professions schools and faculty do to meet rural healthcare workforce needs?
- What strategies can rural healthcare facilities use to help meet their workforce needs?
- How do foreign medical graduates help fill rural physician workforce gaps?
- Where can I find statistics on healthcare workforce for my state including employment, projected growth and key environmental factors?
- What are some federal policies and programs that have been designed to improve supply of rural health professionals and how effective are these programs?
- Where can states get technical assistance for health workforce planning, including how to consider rural needs?