Life in Rural Kentucky

Perspectives from Dr. Weaver

Top 10 Reasons Why Rural Practice Is a Great Option

Growing up on a cattle farm in Scottsville, Ky., I always assumed I would end up in a small town. Most of the physicians I work with did not "choose" to be rural physicians. They simply were rural physicians who were not persuaded otherwise. However, for those contemplating a rural practice versus a city practice, here are the top 10 reasons I would consider practicing in a rural area:

  1. The Commute
    I drive six miles from my farm to work. It takes nine minutes. During the first half of my commute, I am more likely to see a deer than another human being.

  2. The People
    Since there aren't so many of us, people make an effort to learn your name and try to look out for you. My patients help me with car repair, septic tanks, and fishing tips.

  3. The Hospital 
    Out here, hospitals must work together to care for patients. Our hospital is an important part of the community, and is considered a valued resource.

  4. The Clinic
    When I am not teaching, I work at a free clinic. Although it is sad to see people suffer because they can't afford medical care, helping them get the care they need gives me joy and satisfaction. There are no production quotas, only sick people who need my help.

  5. The Practice 
    In rural practice, patients depend more on their primary care doctor for complete care. Specialists are often unavailable, so I see more advanced pathology and a broader range of diseases than in the city. Many of my patients are also my friends and neighbors. When I help people I know, the satisfaction of being a doctor is much greater.

  6. The Town 
    When I eat in a local restaurant, the mayor often drops by to see how I'm doing. Does the mayor of your town say hi when he sees you?

  7. Summer 
    Living in Daniel Boone National Forest, the temperature is cooler than in a city. We don't use air conditioning at our house. There is a pond in my backyard, and when I get hot, I go swimming.

  8. Winter 
    Firewood is cheap and plentiful. When the weather is cold, we have a hot fire in the wood stove every day.

  9. Freedom
    I can plant a tree, cut down a tree, trim a tree, or build a tree house without asking for permission or a zoning change.

  10. Religion 
    Religion is interwoven into the workday at the local rural hospital, from the morning prayer to the religious readings that start our committee meetings. Most of the staff of the local hospital are religious, although many different religions are represented. I have learned a great deal from my patients and staff about one's relationship with God during sickness and death.


A Typical Day in the Life of a Rural Doctor

The seasons have a direct effect on my daily activities. In the winter, starting a fire, feeding the horse, and grading the driveway may be the first chore of the day. When I leave my house in the spring, I'm greeted by the sounds of young frogs and the smell of the skunks (yes, skunks!) as they wake from hibernation. Summer brings the smells of fresh cut hay and flowering trees on my commute. In the fall, I see the mist rising off the lakes and rivers as I drive in to work. The seasons also change my work day. Whether it's spring and fall allergies, summer heat strokes, or winter influenza, my office and hospital population changes throughout the year. The seasons of my life have also had an effect on my day-to-day activities. As a young doctor, I raced to work to treat acute illnesses and make hospital rounds. Currently, my day is more likely to involve improvements to the RPLP, recording my radio show, or mapping a research project to understand melanoma rates in farmers. Regardless of whether I'm trying to treat acute disease or prevent it, I'm reminded every day of the joy of bringing advanced health care to a group of people who do not have it. Rural Kentucky needs doctors, and working where you are needed is not to be taken for granted.