Rural health workforce development - a qualitative study of themes related to provider shortages in West Texas
Introduction: Healthcare administrators struggle to recruit healthcare providers for rural communities. Multiple hospital closures throughout the United States reflect a direct outcome of the healthcare professional shortages in rural communities. Medical facility administrators continue to scramble for ideas to recruit healthcare providers. This research was driven by the need to identify effective strategies to recruit healthcare providers to rural communities.
Methods: To address this gap in rural health care, four centers associated with the West Texas Area Health Education Center (AHEC) program office set out to host focus groups at regional symposiums over six months in the form of panel discussions. Each center recruited three panels consisting of hospital administrators, practicing healthcare providers, and healthcare provider students, including medical, nurse practitioner, and physician assistant students.
Results: The themes that emerged revolve around advantages, disadvantages, suggestions and requests, and overall strategies regarding recruitment and retention of rural providers. These findings included better pay and benefits for providers, small town lifestyles, limited preceptorships, and increased funding for medical education in rural areas.
Conclusion: Given the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, these findings support the public health significance of the need for effective recruitment strategies to address the shortage of rural providers in West Texas and beyond.
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