Rural Health: “And How Long Will You Be Staying, Doctor?”

A recent short commentary, (Full Text Link:“And How Long Will You Be Staying, Doctor?”) (H Kovich, NEJM 2017; 376: 1307-9), provides a great deal of insight into rural medicine.

  • “Twenty percent of the U.S. population is rural, but only 11% of physicians practice in rural settings, even though residents of rural areas are older and have worse health indicators.”
  • “Physician supply is driven by where physicians want to live, not by the health needs of the community.”
  • “The nearest tertiary care hospital is another 3 hours away. We don’t refer often.”
  • “Caring for entire families helps me understand my community.”
  • Physicians leaving:  “there is guilt for the person who left, insecurity for the one left behind…Should I leave too? It sounds nice to live in a neighborhood with Trader Joe’s, high-speed internet, and babysitting grandparents.”
  • Patients still ask me [after 7 years] “The Question at least twice a day. “You’re not leaving soon, are you?” …I tell them honestly, I have no plan. I don’t tell them that I’m undecided about buying a new dining-room table…I’m torn between buying a nice one that fits this space and getting a cheap one.  If I move, I might want something different in a new house….[my friend] “Buy a nice one for this space,” she says.”

My take: Currently there are not enough primary care physicians.  Rural settings suffer this deficit disproportionately and it increases inequities.

Related blog post: Zip Code vs. Genetic Code

Notre Dame

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One thought on “Rural Health: “And How Long Will You Be Staying, Doctor?”

  1. Pingback: Immigrant Doctors Blocked by New Rules Too | gutsandgrowth

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