December 31, 2011; Source: Houston Chronicle (Associated Press) | A new recruitment tool is being used by some rural health facilities, which have formerly had trouble recruiting and keeping high quality medical staff. The benefit being offered is eight weeks off each year to do mission work in other countries. The Ashland Health Center in Ashland, Kansas (pop. 855) offers the benefit to all staff from maintenance men and women to specialists, and the offer has been successful, drawing AHC’s chief medical officer, a medical technologist, a nursing director, a nurse practitioner, and other staff.

The recruitment model was developed in conjunction with the nonprofit Via Christi medical residency program, in Wichita, which offers a three-year family medicine residency and an International Family Medicine Fellowship, a one-year post-residency program geared to providing health care in developing countries. This year, 33 percent of that program’s applicants indicated interest in such work, more than double the previous year’s 16 percent.

This article states that a number of Via Christo doctors are taking the lead in establishing such deals in other places. For instance, four former fellows and two of their spouses sent their own queries to hospitals, offering to move to a town with a hospital in need in exchange for each getting three months off on a rotating basis annually for mission work. All six ended up in New Hampton, Iowa, a town of 3,500.

While this is clearly a situation in which religious obligation is central to the motivation of these new staff, we wonder whether there will be other non-religious mission oriented recruitment sweeteners offered to dedicated staff over the next few years.—Ruth McCambridge