There are many factors that contribute to poorer health outcomes for rural Americans compared to those who live in urban areas, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. One reason is a lack of physicians, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners in rural areas, which leads to limited access to convenient health care for rural residents.

To better understand why clinicians choose to practice in specific areas, Wake Forest University School of Medicine has received a two-year, $445,000 grant from the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, part of the National Institutes of Health.

Using a preference method called a discrete choice experiment, the researchers will gain a better understanding of the specific reasons medical residents and fellows, along with physician assistants and nurse practitioner students, choose a particular clinical position. The study team will look specifically at the rural Appalachia region of the United States.

“Despite job availability in rural areas, many clinicians choose to work in more affluent suburban or urban areas,” said Chris Gillette, Ph.D., associate professor of PA Studies at Wake Forest University School of Medicine and principal investigator of the study. “We want to better understand the complex interplay of personal reasons, job-related needs or community preferences that influence the decision-making process.”

The findings of this study will help identify a set of policy options and incentives that would attract more clinicians to rural areas of the country.

“To design effective policies and incentives that will attract clinicians to rural areas, it is critical to develop a better understanding of their preferences for decision-relevant characteristics, as well as the trade-offs they are willing to make when choosing a job location,” Gillette said.

Gillette and Jan Ostermann from the University of South Carolina Arnold School of Public Health will lead this project in collaboration with offices of rural health from Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine, West Virginia University School of Medicine, Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine, and the University of Kentucky School of Medicine. [source]