Introduction: The literature on recruiting and/or retaining health professionals in rural areas focuses primarily on the development of recruitment and retention strategies and assessing whether such strategies are effective. The objective of this article is to argue that it is important for all stakeholders involved in rural recruitment and/or retention processes to consider their decisions and actions from an ethics perspective. Recruitment and/or retention processes are not value neutral and it is important to understand their ethical dimensions.
Methods: From the literature, elements of the recruitment and/or retention strategies that have been employed were identified and organised in respect of levels of governance (namely, the levels of health system/government, community, and individual health professionals). The elements identified in these levels were subjected to analysis to identify their ethical dimensions and to determine whether a clash or complement of values arose at each level of governance or between governance levels.
Results: There is very little literature in this area that considers the ethical dimensions of rural recruitment and/or retention processes. However, all policies and practices have ethical dimensions that need to be identified and understood as they may have significant implications for recruitment and/or retention processes.
Conclusions: This article recommends the application of an ethics perspective when reflecting on rural recruitment and/or retention strategies. The collective decisions of all involved in rural recruitment and/or retention processes may fundamentally influence the 'health' (broadly understood) of rural communities.