3 years ago

Recruiting Rural Healthcare Providers Today: a Systematic Review of Training Program Success and Determinants of Geographic Choices

Jesus G. Ulloa, Gina Capra, Melinda Maggard-Gibbons, Isomi Miake-Lye, Jessica M. Beroes, Paul G. Shekelle, Ian T. MacQueen, Susanne Hempel, Laura Raaen



Rural areas have historically struggled with shortages of healthcare providers; however, advanced communication technologies have transformed rural healthcare, and practice in underserved areas has been recognized as a policy priority. This systematic review aims to assess reasons for current providers’ geographic choices and the success of training programs aimed at increasing rural provider recruitment.


This systematic review (PROSPERO: CRD42015025403) searched seven databases for published and gray literature on the current cohort of US rural healthcare practitioners (2005 to March 2017). Two reviewers independently screened citations for inclusion; one reviewer extracted data and assessed risk of bias, with a senior systematic reviewer checking the data; quality of evidence was assessed using the GRADE approach.


Of 7276 screened citations, we identified 31 studies exploring reasons for geographic choices and 24 studies documenting the impact of training programs. Growing up in a rural community is a key determinant and is consistently associated with choosing rural practice. Most existing studies assess physicians, and only a few are based on multivariate analyses that take competing and potentially correlated predictors into account. The success rate of placing providers-in-training in rural practice after graduation, on average, is 44% (range 20–84%; N = 31 programs). We did not identify program characteristics that are consistently associated with program success. Data are primarily based on rural tracks for medical residents.


The review provides insight into the relative importance of demographic characteristics and motivational factors in determining which providers should be targeted to maximize return on recruitment efforts. Existing programs exposing students to rural practice during their training are promising but require further refining. Public policy must include a specific focus on the trajectory of the healthcare workforce and must consider alternative models of healthcare delivery that promote a more diverse, interdisciplinary combination of providers.

Publisher URL: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11606-017-4210-z

DOI: 10.1007/s11606-017-4210-z

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