Rural hospitals looking for new generation of physicians

emergency hospital sign
Posted at 8:27 PM, Jun 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-07 21:41:34-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Some rural hospitals are actively seeking the next generation of doctors, as the average age of physicians increases.

At Ascension St. Thomas in McMinnville, the hospital has six physician positions it's trying to fill. A task hospital administration believes will impact the future of the hospital and surrounding community.

"Our average age of medical staff is probably a lot higher than in an area where you've got a lot of recruitment and there's constant inflow," said Dale Humphrey, CEO of the hospital. "So, we've just seen the average age of the physician increasing over years."

Humphrey said he's hoping to hire doctors out of residency programs from UT, a partner of the hospital.

The state is trying to create incentives for doctors to choose a residency in rural areas by appropriating $5.5 million yearly from the budget to create more residency programs.

Humphrey said there's one such doctor they hope to bring in around the beginning of August this year.

However, there's a nationwide shortage of doctors predicted over the coming 30 years.

"Part of the issue, I believe, is fewer candidates are getting into medical school, getting into the profession," said Humphrey.

Some doctors are choosing to enter the medical field through rural hospitals. Dr. Christopher Menzel, a bariatric physician, started at Vanderbilt Wilson County Hospital within the past year. He said choosing a more rural hospital was in his plans, as both of his grandfathers did the same.

"The idea is that you have a personal relationship with patients," he said. "I think that's one of the big draws for me anyways is a smaller hospital and a smaller town in that field that I can really stay super close with my patients."