Background: It is important to assess rural health professions workforce needs and identify variables in recruitment and retention of rural health professionals.
Purpose: This study examined the perspectives of rural hospital chief executive officers (CEOs) regarding workforce needs and their views of factors in the recruitment and retention process.
Methods: A survey was mailed to CEOs of 28 Illinois rural hospitals, in towns ranging from 3,396 to 33,530 in population size. The survey addressed CEO perceptions of number of physicians needed by specialty, need for other health professionals, and variables important to recruitment and retention.
Findings: Twenty-two CEOs (79%) responded to the survey. Eighty-six percent indicated a physician shortage in the community, with 64% reporting the need for family physicians. CEOs also indicated the need for physicians in obstetrics-gynecology, general and orthopedic surgery, general internal medicine, cardiology, and psychiatry. In terms of needs for other health professionals, most often mentioned were registered nurses (91%), pharmacists (64%), and nurses' aides (46%). Related to recruitment and retention, most often mentioned by the CEOs was community attractiveness in general, followed by practice and physician career opportunities.
Conclusions: CEOs offer 1 important perspective on health professions needs, recruitment, and retention in rural communities. While expressing a range of opinions, rural hospital CEOs clearly indicate the need for more primary care physicians, call for an increased capacity in nursing, and point to community development as a key factor in recruitment and retention.