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Why Interested Surgeons Are Not Choosing Rural Surgery: What Can We Do Now?

Published:March 15, 2021DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jss.2021.01.032

      Abstract

      Background

      There is a growing deficit of rural surgeons, and preparation to meet this need is inadequate. More research into stratifying factors that specifically influence choice in rural versus urban practice is needed.

      Methods

      An institutional review board–approved survey related to factors influencing rural practice selection and increasing rural recruitment was distributed through the American College of Surgeons. The results were analyzed descriptively and thematically.

      Results

      Of 416 respondents (74% male), 287 (69%) had previous rural experience. Of those, 71 (25%) did not choose rural practice; lack of professional or hospital support (30%) and lifestyle (26%) were the primary reasons. A broad scope of practice was most important among surgeons (52%), who chose rural practice without any previous rural experience. Over 60% of urban practitioners agreed that improved lifestyle and financial advantages would attract them to rural practice. The thematic analysis suggested institutional support, affiliation with academic institutions, and less focus on subspecialty fellowship could help increase the number of rural surgeons.

      Conclusions

      Many factors influence surgeons’ decisions on practice location. Providing appropriate hospital support in rural areas and promoting specific aspects of rural practice, including broad scope of practice to those in training could help grow interest in rural surgery. Strong collaboration with academic institutions for teaching, learning, and mentoring opportunities for rural surgeons could also lead to higher satisfaction, security, and potentially higher retention rate. These results provide a foundation to help focus specific efforts and resources in the recruitment and retention of rural surgeons.

      Keywords

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