by Karen Zulkowski DNS, RN, CWS
Five million US rural residents live in designated provider shortage areas. A provider shortage area is defined by the federal government as counties with fewer than 33 primary care physicians per 100,000 residents. It is believed this shortage will be worse by 2014. Not surprisingly, rural residents and primary care providers rate their health care lower than their urban counterparts. Few specialists are available in rural areas with rural areas having half the number of surgeons and other specialists compared to urban areas.