5 Rural States Facing a Shortage of Licensed Physicians


5 Rural States Facing a Shortage of Licensed Physicians

The United States is expected to face a shortage of between 42,600 and 121,300 physicians by the end of the next decade, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges. But the physician shortage is most prominent in rural areas, which accounted for nearly 60% of the nation’s more than 7,200 areas lacking adequate health care. Experts predict America’s aging population will increase the demand for medical care, while the supply of physicians will drop, given that a third of doctors currently practicing will be older than 65 by 2030 and might decide to retire.

As millenials come in and boomers go out, rural states can be a tough sell to doctors who want to relocate. Most doctors are seeking out states with larger population centers, more enrichment and educational opportunities. As a result, Wyoming, Montana, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Arkansas are states that are having a tough time getting physicians to the communities where they are needed most, places with wide open spaces and low populations. Another reason for the shortage of doctors? There are no medical schools at their public universities.

There are many challenges to the widespread doctor shortage and ongoing need for those who carry a physician license in rural states.  This is in part because most graduating doctors often end up choosing to practice medicine in the state where they attended school. For states like without their own state medical school this issue is significant, leading the healthcare industry to consider what can be done to better encourage doctors to practice outside of metropolitan areas. The many advantages to living in rural states such as beautiful weather, low fuel prices, excellent medical services and low crime rates often get overlooked. The cost of housing and other essentials is also fairly reasonable.


While federal and state programs have made some headway in the effort to bring more doctors, Wyoming is still not a popular locale among those who are willing to move to practice medicine. The many advantages to living in the state are often overlooked. The state, with its wide-open splendor, boasts a low population density, beautiful weather, low taxes, low fuel prices, excellent medical services, no business or income taxes and low crime rates. It’s affordable to live in Wyoming. The cost of housing and other essentials are low, and it’s among the five states with the lowest taxes in the U.S. The state’s natural beauty is definitely the main attraction.

“People go to medical school for all kinds of different reasons, but if the reason is to make a real difference, there are very few opportunities that offer as many ways to make a real difference as rural medicine.”(4)


This state is ailing from a chronic shortage of doctors and mental health providers. In such a rural state, the lack of physicians means patients must often drive hundreds of miles for medical care. What’s being done to recruit and keep more doctors in rural areas? Property taxes are exceptionally low, the cost of living is quite affordable, wide open spaces, plenty of job opportunities in other fields, low density population and friendly communities. Another huge advantage to living in Montana is no sales tax: in fact, it is one of just four states in the country without sales tax. It’s also the perfect place for those that like breathing room with lots of quiet. The cost of living is quite affordable.


Oftentimes, Mississippi is an overlooked and underrated place to reside. From a low cost of living to an amazing culture and everything in between, this state actually has a lot to offer. When it comes to continuing your education, Mississippi has got you covered. The state is home to over 50 colleges, universities, and technical schools. And just because much of Mississippi is rural it doesn’t mean residents miss out on big city amenities. With large cities like Jackson, Hattiesburg, Biloxi, and Gulfport, there’s access to great entertainment, nightlife, amazing restaurants, and more. Since most of Mississippi is rural, it means that traffic jams are a pretty rare occurrence. U.S. News ranked it 13th for affordability overall, and 1st for affordable cost of living. Not only is the cost of living low, housing has also followed suit.


USA Today ranked Oklahoma as the fourth most affordable state in the US to live. The average home price in Oklahoma is about $123,000. It literally costs half the price to buy a home in Oklahoma than it does in the United States as a whole. In addition to this, the average rent in Oklahoma is much cheaper than the rest of the United States too. Again, nearly half. Due to the fact that most of the state doesn’t consist of massive overflowing cities, “rush hour” isn’t really a thing in Oklahoma. Due to the fact that rent is so incredibly low, Oklahoma is a great place to launch a business, too. In addition to having modernized the buildings themselves, the schools receive extremely high ratings for performance, teacher-student ratio, and student advancement. When it comes to earnings growth, few states have fared as well as Oklahoma. Recently the Bureau of Economic Analysis looked at the data and found that the Sooner State was one of the top three states with the highest percentage earnings growth since 2009. Oklahoma was also one of the top five fastest growing economies in the nation.


When you consider housing, taxes, utilities and daily living expenses, the cost of living in Arkansas is considerably lower than in most states.Arkansas is ranked among the five most affordable U.S. states to live in, and it’s also among the top five states with the lowest costs for doing business.The median home cost in little rock is $138,000. The average rent is $773, but it’s not difficult to find it much lower than that if you’re looking for a small place. This makes it a good place to save some money while living there.Arkansas boasts some of the country’s finest health care facilities. The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock is consistently listed in U.S. News & World Report’s annual edition of “America’s Best Hospitals,” and is also a Level 1 Trauma Care Center. Compared to the rest of the country. Millennial’s enjoy living in the downtown districts of big cities, and Arkansas has several large communities that are thriving with action. Arkansas is ranked among the five most affordable U.S. states to live in, and it’s also among the top five states with the lowest costs for doing business. Students have multiple choices of universities and colleges to receive a top-notch education in Arkansas.

“It’d be nice to have some doctors stay and get to know their patients,” says Theresa Bowlin, the lone staffer working at the Arthur County courthouse.

Thinking of Relocating to Rural America? How to Apply For Your Medical License.

Rural America is struggling to find qualified doctors who want to fill open positions and because of this, there are many available posts to fill. IF you have selected to move and work in one of the above mentioned states, you will need to fill out the paperwork for your physician’s license. Where do you begin when you need to fill out all of the required paperwork? Unfortunately, the vast amount of steps to take to apply and receive your physician license can be daunting. Luckily, there are additional resources that can help simplify the application process. Joining the physician workforce in Rural America will help these states overcome additional healthcare challenges, providing those who are underserved proper healthcare.


  1. https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/articles/2019-08-21/rural-western-states-work-together-to-tackle-physician-shortages
  2. https://cowboystatedaily.com/2019/06/06/doctor-shortage-in-wyoming-almost-impossible-to-recruit/
  3. https://californiamoversusa.com/resources/moving-to-wyoming/
  4. https://www.medicaleconomics.com/news/dealing-shortage-rural-physicians

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