Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Recruiting locally is the key to filling psychiatrist needs in rural and underserved areas

Despite all the incentive programs to bring psychiatrists to rural and underserved areas, the best way to fill the need is through local residents, said Sita Diehl, director of state policy and advocacy with the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Lauren Silverman reports for NPR. Diehl told Silverman, "The most successful strategies are to find young people within the rural community. They know the community, they have an investment in the community. Otherwise the turnover rates in these loan repayment programs are pretty high." (Texas Department of State Health Services map)

Travis Singleton, who tracks physician shortages for Merritt Hawkins, a Texas-based consulting firm, said that 185 of the state's 254 counties—consisting of nearly 3.2 million people—lack a psychiatrist, Silverman writes. Singleton told Silverman, "You have less and less residents wanting to go in this specialty in general, and then you have those that actually do practice medicine not necessarily in the most optimal settings for us."

Sen. Charles Schwertner (R-Texas) "sponsored a law that, starting in 2016, will help around 100 medical health professionals repay loans if they go to work in underserved areas," Silverman writes. There are also a number of loan repayment programs for students that Diehl said are "at least somewhat successful."

But the key is people like Texas native Karen Duong, a medical student at the University of North Texas Health Science Center, who said she is committing to finding a job in a rural town after becoming part of the community in Hereford, a rural town in the panhandle that refers to itself as the "Beef Capital of the World," Silverman writes. Duong told Silverman,"It doesn't compare, having all these luxuries in a city versus being able to go out there and really make a difference in your patients' lives." (Read more)

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