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How to Hire an Occupational Therapist in Rural America

by Brittany Ferri


However, therapy practices, healthcare facilities, and schools within rural settings may struggle to find occupational therapists who are willing to help the people within the community. This makes it especially critical for recruiters, private practice owners, and therapy directors to tap into their creativity when looking to hire occupational therapists to work in a rural area.

Networking is key

Let’s be honest: there really aren’t many situations where networking is not beneficial. However, making connections is especially vital to those who are on the hunt for quality therapists looking for a job. These professionals should make themselves present at job fairs, community events, online job boards, community college, university career fairs, and basically anywhere that potential candidates may be. This will help recruiters and directors plant themselves and their company in the minds of therapists who are seeking jobs and become familiar with the potential candidate pool in certain areas.

Recruiters should not shy away from using the internet to promote their rural businesses’ to find potential candidates. This will give therapists the push they need to learn a bit about the company and position, and eventually seek more information if they are interested in working in a rural area.

Consider adding benefits that will encourage applicants

If you are looking to hire good therapists, it is in your best interest to consider adding incentives that will draw in good talent. In many cases, therapists seeking work in any area that requires some effort (relocation, a longer commute, etc.) will need benefits that make taking that position worth it. Employers should consider adding incentives such as sign-on bonuses, relocation assistance (a stipend or employer advice regarding seeking housing), employment assistance for a spouse, tuition reimbursement, and resources or funding for childcare. Mentorship is also a huge resource to draw therapists in, especially new graduates

These incentives can be costly, but adding even one can benefit companies who wish to attract quality talent, good clinical outcomes, and a lower turnover rate. Good benefits may also come in the form of a lower deductible health insurance plan with a low premium or a more appealing, higher 401K match for their retirement account. Employers and recruiters seeking to attract therapists to a rural area should be creative when coming up with area-specific perks that they offer.

Always look for new candidates

As mentioned earlier, it is important for recruiters and business owners of rural therapy practices to always be aware of new potential candidates in their area or in surrounding areas. Since this hiring process may be difficult for some recruiters and hiring managers, they should never stop the search for new, suitable candidates to fill positions at their company. This will help decrease the amount of time spent searching for therapists to fill vacancies, ensure there are little to no gaps in patient care, and help attract great talent that stays with your company.

CovalentCareers offers options tailored to how you're looking to hire OTs, whether that means job board listings, full-service recruiting, recruitment marketing, or any combination thereof. In today’s tight labor market, it’s important to start promoting your open position as soon as possible—both to keep costs down and to take advantage of the opportunities to reach both passive and active job seekers. Get started by scheduling a consultation with a CovalentCareers hiring specialist, and let us help you find your newest team member!

Consider the type of therapist that would thrive in your area

Since rural areas are known for their lack of access to healthcare services, especially specialty services, you will want to take this into consideration when hiring a therapist. In these settings, it is essential for healthcare centers to hire a range of therapists who are generalists in their field. This will bring a wider range of treatments to your community and increase the likelihood that the patients that you serve will receive care that addresses their needs. In the case of occupational therapists, this works out especially well since therapists graduate with a generalist degree.

Those looking to hire OTs in rural settings should then focus their recruiting efforts on new graduates by making connections at career fairs and speaking to students on college campuses. Working in rural settings where there are a wide range of patients with a variety of diagnoses will also greatly benefit new graduate therapists who are looking to gain a lot of experience in a short period of time.

Use location to your benefit

In some instances, you may feel that your facility’s location in a rural area is a disadvantage. However, this also poses a great opportunity to market your rural job postings to a specific audience. You are able to use the rural setting as a selling point for your postings, and appeal to therapists who are tired, burned out from city life, and seeking a way to escape from the hustle and bustle by seeking beautiful scenery, peace, and calmness.

This may mean targeting some of your recruiting efforts toward therapists who have just begun seeking new job opportunities or therapists who have not yet considered that they may be experiencing the symptoms of burnout. You may even want to include some education on burnout in your clinic information and job posting to help therapists realize it is time for a change.


Working in a rural area provides therapists with excellent perks, including a calm environment, a variety of experience across many diagnoses, the chance to make a significant difference in your area, and the opportunity to connect with many residents in the community. Some recruiters and therapy companies may have difficulty hiring therapists for these rural areas. However, employing some of these simple strategies will make it easier and more rewarding to connect with great talent that will take the services in their rural area to the next level.


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