Trends in Health Workforce Supply in the Rural U.S.
This study describes the supply and distribution of selected health professionals in the rural U.S. nationally, and within census divisions, providing a nuanced description of the variability in supply and geographic distribution. The study also examines historic variation, overall and per capita, in rural/urban, regional, and intra-rural supply using several data sources, such as the Area Health Resource File, the National Plan and Provider Enumeration System, and Urban Influence Codes. Depending on data availability, health professionals to be analyzed include primary care physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, dentists, behavioral health providers (including psychiatrists, psychologists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, social workers, and counselors), obstetric providers (including obstetricians, advanced practice midwives, and midwives), and specialist physicians (overall and individual specialties not listed previously, including general surgeons).
Tracking the trends in the rural workforce will allow for the development of solutions to address access disparities. The study also will identify gaps in data availability by profession and time period as a spur to promoting improved data collection and reporting on the rural health workforce.