Enticing health-care providers to live and work in rural communities can be a challenge, especially in the remote north. In this topic, explore successful strategies that rural communities can use to attract and retain health-care providers. Click the expandable menu below for articles about strategies to attract and retain health providers to rural Alberta.
Canadian data shows that fewer physicians and nurses work in Canadian rural areas compared to urban settings. The choice to practice in a rural area is influenced by many factors: Coming from a rural background and having rural practice experiences during graduate training can promote uptake of rural practice. In contrast, poor perception of rural practice, especially in those not from a rural background, along with concerns over career opportunities and professional isolation can be deterrents to rural practice.
A lack of health-care providers can create gaps in services and limit health-care access for rural residents. Attracting sufficient health providers is necessary for the health and sustainability of rural communities.
Much is being done to enhance the pool of health providers in rural areas. Canada has a Rural Road Map with a set of strategies to bring more practitioners to rural Canada. The focus of the Road Map is for medical schools to enhance enrollment and training of students willing to practice in rural areas. There are nursing programs with a rural health focus, including Aurora College at Inuvik–NWT and the University of Northern British Columbia. There is also an effort to attract more non-physician health providers to rural Alberta to deliver health services. This includes nurse practitioners (NP), registered nurses (RN), physician assistants (PAs), and allied health providers.
Rural communities play an important role in attracting and retaining health professionals. They make providers and their families feel welcome and help them settle into the new environment. Rural communities also create opportunities for local high school kids and health sciences students to get a taste of rural life and practice. This might help them consider rural practice.
There are frameworks that help understand the factors that motivate health providers to choose rural practice. Communities can use these frameworks to tailor their attraction and retention strategies to individual needs.
Together, all these strategies can boost access to health-care services in rural areas.