Although Tennessee has more health professionals now than ever before, the distribution of health providers and access to primary and specialty care are ongoing problems. In the Spring of 2001, a unique partnership was created to address on-going concerns about health professional shortages in Tennessee counties. This partnership included the Rural Health Association of Tennessee and Tennessee's medical schools --- James H. Quillen College of Medicine at East Tennessee State University, Meharry Medical College School of Medicine, the University of Tennessee Health Science Center College of Medicine, and Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. An Advisory Group with key representatives of these organizations and other stakeholders was formed to create a Demand Assessment of physicians, physician assistants, and advanced practice nurses in rural and underserved areas in Tennessee and assist in development of a Statewide Recruitment and Retention Plan.
The demand assessment surveyed current providers in practice, number of providers recruited in the past year, the number of providers who left the organization in the past year (and why), the number of providers being recruited, reasons for recruitment, and the length of time required to recruit (in the past year). The demand assessment also captured information on specialty care in rural and underserved communities. Results of the Demand Assessment indicated: 1) demand exceeds the annual production of health professionals statewide; 2) demand exceeds supply across all types of facilities and regions of the State; and, 3) a statewide recruitment and retention plan is needed to help health professionals identify and choose practice in rural and underserved areas.
A Practice Opportunities Directory was derived from the Demand Assessment. The Practice Opportunities Directory lists organizations which responded to the Demand Assessment indicating they are actively recruiting physicians, physician assistants, and advanced practice nurses. Other organizations in Tennessee who did not respond to the 2001 Demand Assessment may also be actively recruiting health professionals.
A Statewide Recruitment and Retention Plan has been developed to provide assistance in the recruitment and retention of health professionals, especially to communities and organizations in rural and underserved areas.