By Ana Roscetti
About 490 communities in Arizona are short of primary health care professionals. About 150 of those communities, a majority of which are in the rural areas, are in need of primary care physicians. The current shortage of physicians in the State is about 440 necessary to provide basic health care for residents living in those areas. Further, a study suggests that less than 15% of primary care physicians practice in rural settings. While there are available incentives programs through the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) such as the National Health Service Corps Loan Repayment Program and the State Loan Repayment Program that help alleviate provider shortages by incentivizing providers to work in rural or underserved communities, there are other factors that impact recruitment and retention beyond loan repayment incentives.
Multiple barriers for successful recruitment in the rural areas noted in a HRSA report include pipeline issues of attracting sufficient candidates that are interested and academically prepared to serve in the rural areas. The University of Arizona, College of Medicine Rural Health Professions Program (RHPP) trains students to address just that, better prepare our clinicians to serve the rural communities through weeks of rotation in rural settings. The goal is for students to experience first-hand what it’s like to work in a rural community with the hope of influencing their future practice in those communities. Rural practice is of course not for every clinician. However, rural exposure is critical for students to gain perspectives on whether they could possibly practice in areas they would have not considered in the first place. Click here to learn more about RHPP. For other incentives programs available at ADHS, click here.
Ana Roscetti is the Workforce Section Manager in the ADHS Bureau of Health Systems Development. She can be reached at (602) 542-1066.