With physicians experiencing high turnover and burnout during Covid-19 pandemic and rural hospitals closing, the shortage of doctors in rural America keeps getting worse. In 2023, 65% of rural areas had a shortage of primary care physicians, according to a report published by the Health Resources and Services Administration. More than 15% of Americans — about 46 million — live in rural areas, but only 10% of doctors practice in these communities, many of whom are primary care and family physicians.
That mismatch forces every rural doctor to tackle all sorts of cases and make the best use of their limited resources. In this short documentary, STAT explores why the shortage exists and shows what life is like for a doctor in Kansas who wears many hats and a physician in Illinois pondering retirement.