Career Path

How to Find A Rural Physician Job Out of Residency

Learn why you need to start your search early, and how to tap into resources that will lead you to the role that’s right for you.

For doctors who feel called to rural medicine, it’s more than a profession — it’s a lifestyle.

If you’re thinking about pursuing a rural physician job when you’re done with your medical residency, you probably already know some of the benefits. But how do you find rural physician jobs? Where do you look? And how can you be sure you choose the right one?

At Provider Solutions & Development (PS&D), 28% of the candidates we recruit and help hire are for rural positions, across the country and for a diverse range of healthcare organizations.

In our PS&D Rural Provider Perspectives 2022 report on rural physicians, we identified the following top reasons doctors choose rural roles:

  • Lifestyle of a small town (62%)
  • Make an impact (41%)
  • Close-knit work environment (38%)
  • Proximity to family (28%)
  • Already lived in a rural area (28%)

“Rural doctors are some of the most fulfilled doctors I know,” says DJ Barker, a PS&D senior recruiter who has been connecting physicians with rural roles for the last decade. “They love their communities, and they feel valued and appreciated.

“Rural medicine is an especially nice way for brand new physicians just coming out of residency to begin their careers, because the support is there if they need it, but they’re also given the chance to spread their wings and find their own footing as new doctors. I think it’s also appealing to live and work in a rural environment after the intensity of being a resident. And it’s gratifying, because they get to see the immediate impact they’re having on the health of their community.”

Mark Barclay, director of member services for 3RNET, a nonprofit organization helps health professionals find jobs in rural and underserved areas, agrees. “If you want to see and feel the impact you have, rural healthcare is probably where you’ll be happiest,” he says.

Here, both share top considerations in how to find rural physician jobs — and how to make sure you choose the one that’s right for you.

1. Timing Is Everything: Know When to Apply for Rural Healthcare Jobs

As you are working your way through medical residency, it can be tough to pause and plan, years in advance, for your first job as a physician. But if it’s a rural role that you want, you’ll need to, as rural practices and health systems often start recruiting much earlier than their urban counterparts.

Rural practices and health systems’ hiring teams will want to take more time to get to know you and ensure you’re a good fit for their community. In addition, it’s common for rural health systems to be under-resourced, so the hiring process takes longer.

“If you are looking at rural positions, you’ll want to start your search much sooner than an urban location,” DJ says. “Prime time for interviewing is late summer to early fall when you have two years of residency remaining. Some rural positions will even consider candidates earlier than that.”

If you are in Family Medicine or Internal Medicine, you will begin applying in July of your second year of residency. For specialty or four-year residencies, you’ll need to start applying in the summer of your third year.

If a J-1 Visa is part of your journey, PS&D has expertise in helping J-1 and H1-B Visa candidates navigate the application process from beginning to end, so you can meet the timeline to get the rural job you want.

2. Where You Can Find Rural Job Openings

You know you want to find a physician job in a rural community, but how do you explore your options? In our 2022 research study on rural providers, we found that almost 50% of rural providers find their jobs through referrals or networking.

If you live close enough, you can start building these relationships during residency by taking elective rotations in the community where you want to work. If not, you can build relationships through physician recruiters or by tapping into connections through your residency program director.

Job boards are another solid resource. Here’s a few that focus on rural physician jobs:

Tap Into Existing Resources

Finding the right rural job for you may feel overwhelming, but you don’t have to go it alone. Engaging a recruiter can help answer questions and make inroads you wouldn’t otherwise have access to. While some recruiters are agency-based, others work in-house for a particular employer.

At PS&D, our recruiting teams are unique in that we are owned by Providence, which has a seven-state footprint in the Western U.S., but we also recruit for more than 40 health systems across the country.

“Because we recruit for such a broad, diverse spectrum of employers, we have a steady stream of job openings in rural communities,” DJ says. “Working with PS&D can be clarifying, because we get to know who you are and what you are looking for specifically. Then we get to work helping you find that ideal fit.”

Similarly, 3RNET’s Network Coordinators can help serve as an unbiased resource in choosing the right job for you, as they are well-connected with rural roles in all 50 states.

"If you want to see and feel the impact you have, rural healthcare is probably where you’ll be happiest."

If you’re not quite ready to start your job search yet, remember to constantly be growing your network. Getting familiar with attending career fairs, exploring online tools and engaging with recruiters — all of this will set you up for success down the line.

And make the most of relationships with your built-in networks, like program leadership, clinical faculty and preceptors. The impact they can have on your job-search success cannot be overstated.

3. How to Prepare for Your Interview and Site Visit

As you get farther along in the job-search process, you’ll be asked to visit your prospective employer in person. Before your site visit, be prepared to answer common interview questions geared toward residents.

While there is no way to know exactly what you’ll be asked, you can expect questions about:

  • Your education and training
  • Your experience
  • What interests you about the position
  • What draws you to the community

The site visit is the perfect time to ask about the things that are most important to you. Be sure to do your homework so you can ask about specifics that will help you make that final decision.

Remember, you’re interviewing them too. You may want to ask about:

  • Opportunities for leadership in the practice or in the community
  • Health challenges the community faces
  • Where and when you would provide care
  • What life in the community is like
  • How the schools in the area are

If your visit goes well, don’t be afraid to express your excitement and desire to join the community in the moment and in follow-up communications. This is critical, as rural healthcare organizations want to feel that you’ll be happy at their hospital or practice. By showing that you will enjoy the work and lifestyle, you increase your odds of landing the job.

Finding Your Right Fit

A rural healthcare position out of residency allows you to connect with your patients and community, hone your skills and learn what is important to you as a physician. As a nonprofit, 3RNET has job postings and a library of resources to help you make an educated decision without feeling pressured.

Looking for guidance in finding the right rural job for you? Provider Solutions & Development (PS&D) offers personalized support, including one-on-one career guidance, help with J-1 visas, connections to rural areas and more, so you can launch your career with confidence. Visit our GME Lounge to learn more.