Why You Might Enjoy Being a Small Town Doctor
“We have good people, the salt of the earth types who care about morality and Southern courtesy,” says Edwin Leap, MD, a resident of rural North Carolina. “People who bring you a glass of sweet tea when your car breaks down.”
We often hear about the the energy and drama of big-city medicine, but less about the pros of being a small-town doctor.
Small towns can have their share of excitement, too. “Everybody thinks we’re treating earaches and sore throats because we’re not the Mayo,” says Heidi Korstad, MD, 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 value of the patient relationships you’d experience or the value that you’d bring to a small community, then read on.
Deep, Lasting Relationships
Small towns often mean big connections.
One of the incentives for doctors who choose to practice in a small town is about relationships. Says John Haynes Jr., MD of his small town practice, “You watch kids grow up and be successful. You feel proud that perhaps a tiny little part of you helped that child grow up.”
In a small town, chances are, you’ll see your patients around town, spend time with them when you’re out and about in the community. While helping people to heal 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 have time to ask how they’re doing personally can be a cause of great joy.
Tons of Variety. No, Really.
Are you worried you’d be bored living and working in a small town? As mentioned 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 old or older,” says Robert Bosl, MD, small down doc. “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 that people in your community may have, large or small. Compared to sharing responsibilities and specialties with multiple doctors in a large hospital, or sharing patients with other family physicians in a crowded practice, you’ll be able to assist on a variety of cases.
“I really liked the feel of the practice,” says Megan Brown, MD, 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 you’ll have the space and lower pressure to find the best fit for you—and see whether it’s the right fit for your family and for your style of practice. Can you envision your family thriving in a small town? Perhaps they will like the tight-knit feel of the community and the peacefulness that is often an innate aspect of small towns. Maybe you’ll like being more of a decision-maker at a practice.
If you choose to visit a small town to help you to decide whether it’s right for you, think about contacting a few physicians and medical professionals who practice there. Set up meetings. Hearing firsthand about why they choose to practice there and what life is really like will give you an idea of whether or not it’s for you.
Not Just Another Face in the Crowd
As a doctor, you know that you’re needed. But in a small town, you’re needed on another level. While it might be a sacrifice in some ways to move to a lower population area, residents greatly value a doctor that 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 that you’re making a difference. You’ll be the one who families turn to, and will not only help to heal them, but you’ll enjoy the close relationships with them. If you’re looking for a change from big city or suburb life, being a small-town doctor might be just the change for you.
Start searching now to explore small town positions.
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