Field of Dreams: Rural Medicine

With myths of outdated equipment, poor quality of training, and little variety in clinical cases, Rural Medicine often comes in last place on the list of dream jobs.  Of course, this couldn’t be further from the truth.  As a former Internal Medicine resident in small town, rural America, I found that Rural Medicine provided an idyllic scenario with a high autonomy of patient care, a wide variety of patient cases, and endless opportunities for procedures and “hands-on” training. 

Not appreciating what I had experienced during my training, I chose to practice in an urban area with lots of amenities and larger hospitals.  I’ll summarize my experience with the cliche “the grass wasn’t greener”, and you can guess what happened – physician burn out.  Having now transitioned to Academic Medicine, I am often reminded of my rural experiences as I hear medical students gush about their experiences in rural hospitals – being a vital part of the healthcare team, immersed in direct patient care, first in line for procedures, and in close relationships with their patients and colleagues. 

A 2019 study from the University of South Dakota Sanford School of Medicine reported that physician burnout rates were lower in rural areas (25%) in comparison to urban areas (51%) with the following contributing factors: having more autonomy in your job, having closer relationships with patients, and having a greater variety of duties at work.  Of course, this study had reported exactly what I had found to be true.  My please to you – when it comes to choosing your career, please don’t make my same mistake. Instead, rewrite your list of choices with Rural Medicine at the top – your Field of Dreams.   

Cassi Jones, DO, FACOI
Director of Clinical Affairs
Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine
DeBusk College of Osteopathic Medicine

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