Perspectives on rural health workforce issues: Illinois-Arkansas comparison

J Rural Health. 2009 Spring;25(2):135-40. doi: 10.1111/j.1748-0361.2009.00209.x.


Context: Past research has documented rural physician and health care professional shortages.

Purpose: Rural hospital chief executive officers' (CEOs') reported shortages of health professionals and perceptions about recruiting and retention are compared in Illinois and Arkansas.

Methods: A survey, previously developed and sent to 28 CEOs in Illinois, was mailed to 110 CEOs in Arkansas. Only responses from rural CEOs are presented (Arkansas n = 39 and Illinois n = 22).

Findings: Physician shortages were reported by 51 CEOs (83.6%). Most reported physician shortages in Arkansas were for family medicine, internal medicine, cardiology, obstetrics-gynecology, general surgery, and psychiatry. Most reported physician shortages in Illinois were for family medicine, obstetrics-gynecology, orthopedic surgery, internal medicine, cardiology, and general surgery. Additionally, registered nurses and pharmacists were the top 2 allied health professions shortages. Multivariate analysis (factor and discriminant analyses) examined community attributes associated with ease of recruiting physicians. Six factors were identified and assessed as to their importance in influencing ease of recruitment, with the state included in the model. Three factors were identified as discriminating whether or not physician recruitment was easy: community supportive for family, community cooperates and perceives a good future, and community attractiveness.

Conclusions: Similarities in shortages and attributes influencing recruitment in both states suggest that efforts and policies in health professions workforce development can be generalized between regions. This study further reinforces some important known issues concerning retention and recruitment, such as the importance of identifying providers whose preferences are matched to the characteristics and lifestyle of a given area.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Arkansas
  • Hospitals, Rural
  • Illinois
  • Medically Underserved Area
  • Personnel Selection
  • Physicians / supply & distribution
  • Rural Health Services*
  • Rural Population
  • Workforce