What is a Rural Program?

A rural residency program is an accredited program in health professions education and training in which trainees spend the majority of their time training (more than 50%) in a rural place. Many rural residency programs are rurally-located, primarily anchored in a rural place with minimum training in an urban setting. Other rural programs, traditionally called RTTs, train residents in urban settings for 4-15 months, and train them in rural communities for the remainder of their residency. For a history of rural residency program definitions, including ‘integrated RTTs,’ read A Proposed Nomenclature (also referenced below). In 2021 the ACGME created a process for pre-accreditation endorsement of a new ‘Rural Track Program (supplanting the ‘RTT’ terminology)’ where residents have both urban and rural experiences and spend more than 50% of their training in a rural community (a micropolitan or non-CBSA area). The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) as of October 1, 2022, will now use this terminology in justifying the creation of a ‘rural FTE limitation’ or ‘rural cap’ for participating hospitals, whether or not the track is separately accredited. For a history of regulations relevant to rural residency training, read RTTs-Regulations-Two-Pager-2023-Update-1.pdf (151.75 KB pdf) . For a current typology of rural training visit our Participating Programs page or download a PDF: Typology-for-Rural-Training-May-2023.pdf (147.95 KB pdf)

Physician Education

A rural program in medical school is an organized and deliberate medical school strategy to produce physicians to rural practice and is described in an article in the Journal of Rural Health, Pipelines to Pathways (also referenced below).

For a current listing of the growing community of practice in rural medical education and training download Abbreviated-Rural-Program-Listing-7.1.2023.xlsx (140.63 KB xlsx)  There are currently:

  • Nine (9) schools of medicine that are located in a rural community
  • Forty-four (44) medical schools with one or more formal rural programs, for a total of fifty-eight (58)
  • One hundred and twenty-four (124) accredited rural residencies in Family Medicine, recruiting for 2024
  • Twenty-six (26) accredited rural residencies in Internal Medicine, and a lesser number of rural programs in other specialties (see Rural Programs map)

For a map of program participants in The RTT Collaborative, click here. For a map of all the rural residencies in Family Medicine, Internal Medicine, Psychiatry, and General Surgery, in the United States click here.

Physician Assistant Education

For a list of 26 rurally oriented Physician Assistant programs, click Rurally-Oriented-PA-directory_07.01.2022-1.xlsx (20.86 KB xlsx) . A published peer-reviewed article summarizing this work is anticipated in the next year.

Nurse Practitioner Education

For a list of 24 rurally oriented Nurse Practitioner programs, click Rurally-Oriented-Nurse-Practitioner-Residency-Programs-12.2022.xlsx (18.36 KB xlsx) . A published peer-reviewed article summarizing this work has been published in the Journal of Rural Health: Kaplan L, Pollock S, Skillman S, Patterson DG. Is being there enough? Postgraduate nurse practitioner residencies in rural primary care, J Rural Health 2022:1-6.

What is the RTT Collaborative?

The RTT Collaborative is a cooperative of rurally focused health professions education and training programs from around the United States. This includes both undergraduate and graduate medical education programs and is beginning to expand to include other health professions. Although not all programs are rurally located or meet the definition outlined above, they are all invested in producing health professionals to rural practice! For more information, follow the About tab above and the associated submenu, including an overview, video, and a map of participating programs.

Longenecker R. Rural Medical Education Programs: A Proposed Nomenclature. Journal of Graduate Medical Education June 2017;9(3):283-286. https://doi.org/10.4300/JGME-D-16-00550.1

Longenecker, R.L., Andrilla, C.H.A., Jopson, A.D., Evans, D.V., Schmitz, D., Larson, E.H. and Patterson, D.G. (2021), Pipelines to Pathways: Medical School Commitment to Producing a Rural Workforce. The Journal of Rural Health. https://doi.org/10.1111/jrh.12542

Meyers P, Wilkinson E, Petterson S, Patterson DG, Longenecker R, Schmitz D, Bazemore A. Rural Workforce Years: Quantifying the Rural Workforce Contribution of Family Medicine Residency Program Graduates, J Grad Med Educ December 2020;12 (6): 717–726. https://doi.org/10.4300/JGME-D-20-00122.1