“We have good people, the salt of the earth types who care about morality and Southern courtesy. People who bring you a glass of sweet tea when your car breaks down,” says Edwin Leap, MD, from rural North Carolina. It seems there’s a lot of talk about the drama and energy of big-city medicine, but we hear less about the pros of being a small-town doctor. And trust us when we say small towns have their fair share of excitement. “Everybody thinks we’re treating earaches and sore throats because we’re not the Mayo,” says Heidi Korstad, MD, of her experiences being a small-town physician. “Where do you think people around here go when they have a heart attack or major car accident or a stroke or cancer? They don’t go to the Mayo. They go to us.”
If you haven’t considered the meaningful patient relationships, value you’d bring to a community, or unique opportunities that come from being a small-town doctor, then it’s time to get reading!
Build Lasting Relationships
Small towns, big connections. One of the biggest incentives for doctors that choose to practice in a small town is the closer relationships they develop with patients and their families. “You know [patients’] families, their fathers, their mothers and their children,” says John Haynes Jr., MD. “You watch kids grow up and be successful…You feel proud that perhaps a tiny little part of you helped that child grow up.” Chances are, you’ll see your patients around town, spend time with them when you’re out and about in the community, and have deeper connections due to knowing them and their friends and families.
While helping people with their illnesses, broken bones, or life threatening conditions is one of the most rewarding parts of being a doctor, the opportunity to know and talk to patients about their family and having time to ask how they’re doing personally can make your job that much more fulfilling.
Tons of Variety. No, Really.
Scared of being bored in a small town? Have no fear. Like we said above, small town health groups see their fair share of interesting cases. “I take care of people age-wise from prenatal care to 100 years of age or older,” says Robert Bosl, MD. “I’ve taken care of five generations of a family in the same week. Compared to a super specialist, it’s so much more intellectually stimulating. I never know what’s behind door two.”
Being a doctor in a small town means you’ll be the go-to physician for any health concern people in your community will have—big or small. Compared to sharing responsibilities and specialties with other doctors in a large hospital, or sharing patients with other family physicians in the area, you’ll be able to help out with a variety of cases. “I really liked the feel of the practice,” says Megan Brown, MD, when talking of her experience being a physician in small-town Kansas. “It let me do everything I wanted to do, everything I was trained to do.”
Find the Best Fit
Another reason you might love being a doctor in a small town is that it lets you find the best fit for you, whether that be the right fit for your family or right fit for your style of practice. Could you see your family thriving in a small town? Perhaps you’ll like the tight-knit feel of the community and peaceful environment. Or maybe you’ll like being more of a decision-maker at a practice.
If you choose to visit a small-town area in order to decide if it’s right for you, try talking to other physicians and medical professionals that practice there. Hearing firsthand about why they choose to practice there and what life is really like will give you an idea of whether or not you’ll love working there.
Not Just Another Face in the Crowd
As a doctor, you know you’re needed. But in a small town, you’re needed on another level. While it might be a sacrifice to move to a smaller area, these people need a doctor they can count on. One patient from Starbuck, Minnesota says of her small-town doctor, “Having a doctor like Bob in a small community like ours is something very precious. It means an awful lot.”
As a doctor in a small town, you’ll be able to see firsthand how you’re making a difference. You’ll be the ones families turn to, and will not only help heal them, but have the close relationship with them to be able to comfort and connect with them.
If you’re looking for a change from the big city/suburb life, then being a small-town doctor might be just the change you need. Look into small town opportunities to see if they’d be the right fit for you. Start searching today and find a small town position that’s right for you.