Rural or Urban Assignments — Where Should You Practice?


Locum Tenens

There are undeniable perks to working locum tenens — a fluid work schedule, diverse clinical challenges, and plenty of new experiences. Another benefit is the choice of work location.

With locum tenens, you can chart your own course, selecting environments that best align with your professional aspirations and personal preferences. The freedom to choose between rural and urban settings is something to consider.

In the tranquil landscapes of rural areas, clinicians often find themselves deeply embedded in close-knit communities, wearing multiple hats, and forming genuine bonds with patients. Here, the pace is slower, but the opportunity to make a difference in an underserved community is vast.

On the flip side, urban assignments thrust you into the heart of bustling cities with state-of-the-art facilities, where the pulse of innovation is evident. Here, the caseload is diverse, the medical teams more extensive, and the challenges multifaceted.

Both landscapes offer their own set of rewards and challenges, so the question isn’t which is better, but rather, which is more beneficial to you at this juncture in your career? Continue reading as we analyze some pros and cons of rural vs. urban locum tenens assignments.

Working in rural settings

Practicing rural medicine means venturing into less-populated areas away from large towns and cities. These small towns differ considerably in geographic, socio-economic, and cultural factors from urban and suburban regions.

You’ll often find that in rural communities, people have shared histories, stories, and experiences. The local doctor isn’t just a healthcare provider; they’re an integral part of the community.

Because specialized care facilities could be hours away or entirely out of reach, rural doctors must possess a broad expanse of medical knowledge. While urban doctors might have the luxury of referring a patient to a specialist at the next hospital over, a rural physician often needs to diagnose, treat, and manage a wide range of conditions — from broken bones to chronic diseases to childbirth.

Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages of practicing medicine in a rural area:

  • Community connection: Rural practitioners often become integral to the community, fostering strong, lasting relationships with patients.
  • Broadened skill set: With limited access to specialists, you may handle a wider range of cases, enhancing your skills and versatility.
  • Less bureaucracy: Smaller facilities can mean fewer administrative hurdles, allowing for more direct patient care.
  • Impactful work: In areas that are often underserved, your contribution will significantly impact community health.
  • Cost of living: Generally, rural areas tend to have a lower cost of living, enabling you to stretch your earnings further.
  • Natural tranquility: Rural settings can be a tranquil escape from the urban hustle for those who cherish peace and nature.
  • Challenging cases: Due to reduced medical access and financial restraints, rural residents are more prone to chronic health conditions. Working in these settings offers you invaluable experience, especially if you’re early in your career.
  • Limited resources: Smaller hospitals and clinics might not have the latest equipment or specialized facilities.
  • Isolation: Being in a remote area can sometimes feel isolating, especially if you’re used to urban vibrancy.
  • Varied workloads: There can be unpredictable ebbs and flows in patient volumes.
  • Fewer learning opportunities: A lack of specialists, conferences, and networking events may limit your options for peer learning.
  • Cultural adjustments: Integrating into a tight-knit rural community can require adapting to local customs and norms.
  • Travel: You may need to travel a considerable distance to reach rural areas, representing not only a time commitment but potential issues should you need to return home urgently. However, Integrity Locums handles your travel for you from arrival to departure.

Working in urban areas

In contrast, urban medicine is fast-paced and varied. In cities, people are packed tightly together and under constant pressure from the stresses of modern life. Here, you’ll encounter a broad spectrum of health issues, from work-related accidents to a wide variety of diseases and cases.

Urban medicine requires finesse and expertise, and you must approach each case carefully with an open mind.

Here are some of the pros and cons of practicing medicine in the heart of the city:

  • Advanced facilities: Access to state-of-the-art hospitals and medical equipment.
  • Specialization opportunities: There’s a greater chance for doctors to specialize due to a higher patient volume in specific disease categories.
  • Networking: Proximity to a larger number of peers, specialists, and medical events can boost your professional growth.
  • Continued education: More opportunities for seminars, conferences, and courses.
  • Research opportunities: Many urban centers are hubs for medical research and trials.
  • Accessibility: Better public transportation and infrastructure can make commuting and accessing other amenities easier.
  • Diverse patient demographics: Exposure to a wide range of medical conditions because of the diverse populations.
  • High pressure: The fast pace of city centers can lead to stressful work environments.
  • Competition: More professionals can mean stiffer competition for positions and patient preferences.
  • Cost of living: Typically higher in urban areas, your expenses could offset increased earnings.
  • Patient volume: Higher patient loads can lead to longer hours and burnout.
  • Impersonal relationships: With more significant patient numbers, there might be less opportunity for long-term doctor-patient relationships.
  • Infrastructure issues: Despite better infrastructure, cities can face challenges like traffic congestion, leading to longer commutes.

Integrity Locums has jobs all over the country, so you can find the best fit. Contact us today to find your next locum tenens assignment.