Country Living: Working as a PA in Rural Healthcare

Lifestyle and Patient Interaction Are Two Advantages

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February 10, 2020

Things are different in the country, and healthcare is no exception. PAs who leave the big city and go to work in the country are in for a unique and rewarding experience. Here’s what a few PAs had to say about their experiences working in a rural setting.

The lifestyle
While urban areas are pulsing with life and opportunity, PAs working in rural areas enjoy uniquely rewarding benefits. Once you leave the city lights and commotion behind, you can ease into a quieter lifestyle. Cost of living is frequently lower, air cleaner, and water fresher. And, according to these PAs, the most deeply gratifying benefit of all is the feeling of making a difference that comes from helping those in underserved communities.

Robin Loubert, PA-C, who works rural family medicine as a locum tenens describes, “Rural teams don’t have enough people to fill all the roles, which means I often need to jump in and fill many different positions. I always try to help other clinicians any way I can, and it feels good to know how much I’m making a real difference in the kind of care these patients are receiving.”

Robert Concini, PA-C in vascular surgery, makes the same point when he says, “People deserve to live in a world where they can receive quality healthcare, even if they live in rural settings. I’m helping to make that happen.”

Patient interaction
In a small town, you’ll likely have a different type of interaction with patients. These patients are used to speaking directly with their doctor and aren’t always sure what a PA is and why they should be telling this person about their medical history. Yet PAs are a vital piece of providing patients with the care they need.

Loubert describes, “Patients expect to call up the doctor and talk to them on the phone. They don’t want to see someone besides the doctor and, at first, they’re confused by the need to address someone other than the doctor. But the reality is, the next doctor might be 30 miles away, and a city might be an hour’s drive away. Without PAs willing to work in rural locations, these patients often end up in the ER, which is not ideal. Interim care is the key to keeping patients out of the ER or urgent care.”

The role of locums
Locum tenens PAs provide critical care to patients who need immediate access to healthcare when their regular PA or doctor isn’t available. This may be as short as a few days for vacation coverage or up to several months while a facility is trying to hire for a permanent position.

Ted Smith, PA-C in emergency medicine, is a locums tenens provider who has worked in a lot of rural locations including Fargo, North Dakota, and Shawano, Wisconsin. “A lot of times it boils down to being able to get PAs and physicians to come out to the small towns,” he says. “So, while they don’t want to live there forever, many are willing to come out as locums and help out for a certain period of time.”

Loubert adds that, even if PAs only commit to a short-term rural assignment, the community reaps significant rewards. “Not everyone is willing to head out to the Alaska bush on their own for a long-term assignment,” she says. “But when PAs can serve short-term assignments as locums providers, this raises the overall experience level and knowledge of these rural facilities, which helps everyone — patients, their families, and other providers.”

Bring the country into your career
Working in a rural area can benefit a PA at any stage of their career and is a great option for anyone looking to make a difference in the lives of patients. So, whether you’re a recent grad, or you’ve been a PA for decades, it might be time to escape the hustle bustle of city life and look into the green pastures of country life.

This article first appeared on CompHealth.com.