Rural States like Wyoming Struggle to Bring in Licensed Physicians
When it comes to numbers alone, Wyoming’s doctor shortage doesn’t appear to be all THAT bad, not at least on paper. Just adding two dozen additional full-time outpatient licensed physicians in Wyoming would be enough to cover the primary care needs of the nearly 188,000 residents living in federally-designated Health Professional Shortage Areas, or HPSAs.
“The population of designated HPSAs in Wyoming for primary care is 187,903, and only 53.81 percent of that population’s need is met,” says Keri Wagner, of the Wyoming Health Department’s Office of Rural Health. The practitioners needed to remove that designation is 24 for the entire state.” Even though this might not sound like much, bringing those 24 full-time doctors, getting them to the communities where they’re needed most, and being able to offer those physicians the compensation and quality of life needed to keep them there, has proven difficult for Wyoming.(2)
Why Is There A Demand For Those Holding a Physician License in Wyoming?
There are many challenges to the widespread doctor shortage and ongoing need for those who carry a physician license in Wyoming. Like many rural areas, 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 Wyoming without their own state medical school this issue is significant, because it’s too expensive to build one, and they were one of the last rural states that decided to partner with the University of Washington School of Medicine. (1)
As millennial’s come in and boomers go out, Wyoming can be a tough sell to doctors who want to relocate. Most doctors are seeking out states with larger population centers and more enrichment and educational opportunities. Taking over a small-town practice is too expensive, or in some cases, too time-consuming for younger, millennial physicians. And a lot of the newly minted doctors out of medical training are opting to work at hospitals, rather than opening their own practices.
While Wyoming is known for its wide-open natural splendor and attracts plenty of tourists, it’s not necessarily what most doctors are seeking when looking to relocate or open a practice. As a result, Wyoming is desperate to get physicians to the communities where they are needed most, places with wide open spaces and low populations. (3) As a rural state with a population of less than 600,000 people, Wyoming struggles to recruit physicians to the cities that desperately need more doctors.
“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)
How Can We Motivate More Physicians to Relocate to Wyoming?
The lack of primary care physicians in rural areas has led 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 Wyoming, with its wide-open splendor, low population density, beautiful weather, low fuel prices, excellent medical services and low crime rates are often overlooked. The cost of housing and other essentials in Wyoming are also fairly reasonable.
Wyoming is one of nine U.S. states that refused taxing individual income. There are no both personal and corporate income taxes, moreover, retirement income is also untaxed. (3) By offering fledgling doctors scholarships and loan repayment programs in exchange for an agreement to work for at least two years, The National Health Service Corps tries to get practitioners to areas that have the most need. Physicians working in geographic HPSAs can also obtain additional bonus quarterly payments from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. (2)
Changes to medical education are also important. The addition of rural residency programs, where doctors can be trained in rural hospitals or other rural care settings, should be a vital part of this effort in Wyoming. Part of WWAMI’s success in Wyoming can be attributed to the fact that it connects students with physicians in rural areas. By attempting to recruit program graduates to join its faculty, many professors work in those rural areas. This leads to them being able to share their professional network with their students.(1)
“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.
How Can You Apply For Your Wyoming Medical License?
Wyoming is having a hard time finding qualified doctors to fill open positions within the state. If you are interested in relocating to practice medicine in Wyoming, you will need to fill out the paperwork necessary to procure your Wyoming medical license. Where do you begin when you need to fill out all of the required paperwork? Unfortunately, the steps to take to apply and receive your physician license in Wyoming can be lengthy and intimidating. If you would like to obtain a Wyoming medical license, there are additional resources that can make the application process simpler for you. By joining the physician workforce in Wyoming, you will be providing those who are under-served proper healthcare, which will help the state overcome more of it’s healthcare challenges.