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Rural Health Information Hub

Workforce Recruitment and Retention

One of the best strategies for providing community mental health services is recruiting a quality workforce and retaining this workforce into the future. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the mental health workforce is one of the fastest growing in the country. Despite this growth, there is a shortage of mental health workers and this severely impacts rural communities. Generally, the mental health workforce is made up of psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, and counselors.

A study on rural mental health workforce recruitment in Nebraska defines the main factors that impact recruitment and retention as:

  • National and local competition for mental health employment positions
  • Medicaid requirements related to billing and reimbursement
  • Lack of funding to support competitive pay
  • Licensing requirements
  • Whether or not an individual gets reimbursed for supervising a new employee
  • Education and training
  • Workload and resources for complex cases
  • Geographic isolation
  • Employment opportunity for spouses
  • Cultural differences

Although they may vary across rural areas, the combination of these factors makes it difficult to recruit and retain a rural mental health workforce.

The Nebraska study provides potential solutions to this problem that rural communities can replicate, including higher pay and perks for mental health employees, rural residency programs, and loan repayment options.

For more on this topic, refer to the RHIhub's Recruitment and Retention for Rural Health Facilities Topic Guide.

Resources to Learn More

Bureau of Health Workforce
Overview of several issues related to rural healthcare workforce, including shortage designations and funding opportunities.
Organization(s): Health Resources and Services Administration

Recruitment and Retention of Mental Health Care Providers in Rural Nebraska: Perceptions of Providers and Administrators
Analyzes the factors that influence recruitment as well as retention of mental health workers in rural communities throughout Nebraska and shows that a comprehensive approach is necessary.
Author(s): Watanabe-Galloway S., Madison L., Watkins K., Nguyen, A., & Chen, L.
Citation: Rural and Remote Health, 15, 3392
Date: 2015

Provides an overview of the behavioral health workforce with links to further resources regarding addressing challenges within the workforce and diverse communities.
Organization(s): Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration