These are five key reasons Lerner said trainees may want to consider being a rural radiologist:
1. You feel mentally stimulated
Lerner said he enjoyed the feeling of being the only radiologist working on any given day in a small town. While it sounds intimidating at first, he said it felt “mentally stimulating” to use all of his newly learned skills in practice.
2. A friendly work environment
Another aspect of working in a rural setting that Lerner appreciated was that everyone “worked together collegially.”
“Interdepartmental rapport was generally very positive,” he wrote. “The chief executive officers and administrators knew everyone by name and would say hello when walking by in the hallway; they were always very approachable. I thought of my colleagues as friends.”
3. Burnout can be less of a concern
As bad as burnout is in healthcare right now—and it is especially bad in radiology, according to numerous studies and surveys—something else to consider, according to Lerner, is that you are likely to not feel as tired or worn down. It’s generally a much smaller workload and weekend shifts didn’t leave him nearly as exhausted as they can in a bigger city.
4. You have bargaining power
“Although money is not the most important thing in life, it can have a significant effect on deciding where to practice,” Lerner wrote.
He noted that fewer people are applying for rural radiologist positions, giving the applicant more leverage when it comes to discussing salaries. Signing bonuses are also common, he added, and some rural hospitals are willing to immediately help pay off student loans. Housing and the cost of living are also going to be much cheaper in a rural area, something that can make a real impact on one’s budget.
5. No long commute
Instead of driving into the city for 45 minutes or an hour each way, rural radiologists often have a much shorter commute. This leaves more time for doing any other activities, and it can save the person making the commute considerable stress.
Of course, there are downsides to consider as well
Lerner emphasized that “it is not all roses” for the rural radiologist. Smaller hospitals are closing throughout the United States, and it’s something job applicants must always keep in mind. And smaller groups mean that there are less specialists who can step up to cover for you if you are ill or need to change your schedule for another reason.
Also, he added, it is possible minority radiologists could experience certain issues.
“Although neither I nor my colleagues of multiple ethnicities or origins (including Jewish, Indian, Middle East, Pakistan) ever reported experiencing this in our practice or city, being a minority might be more difficult depending on the specific location given a small homogenous population for various reasons including potential hostility as an outsider as a barrier to entry,” he wrote. “Feelings of culturally missing out or being isolated might be a factor if you are the only one in your town from a given background, particularly during those respective holidays.”
Overall, Lerner said he enjoyed his time working as a rural radiologist. He did eventually move to a bigger city, but it was an experience he will always remember.
“I expanded my skill set, felt like I made a difference, and made friends that I will hopefully have throughout life,” he concluded.