Factsheet: Clinician Recruitment and Service

Coordinates the recruitment and retention of health professionals in underserved communities and supports efforts to build more integrated and sustainable health care systems.


The NHSC was created almost 40 years ago to address a crisis in the health care system. A wave of retirements among primary care physicians and increasing specialization by medical students had left swaths of America without physicians.

Four decades later, these trends continue. Nationwide, underserved areas face a shortage of 16,000 primary care physicians, dentists and psychiatrists.

To blunt the impact of scarce health care services, HRSA promotes the training and retention of a workforce that is diverse, well-trained, and widely dispersed throughout the nation.

National Health Service Corps

HRSA provides scholarships and loan repayment awards to students and clinicians who agree to practice in communities facing health professional shortages. Through the NHSC, clinicians serve in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and every U.S. territory. Sixty percent of these physicians, dentists and nurses are in rural and frontier America, and 40 percent serve in inner cities.

The 4 million patients treated annually by Corps clinicians represent 11 percent of the estimated 36 million Americans living in areas that have little or no access to health care.

Over the past 3 years, the 1-year retention in service to the underserved has ranged from 75-80 percent. The 5-year retention rate is 68 percent and the 15-year retention rate is 52 percent.

Nursing Education Loan Repayment Program

The Nursing Education Loan Repayment Program assists registered nurses by repaying up to 85 percent of their qualified educational loans over 3 years in return for their services at health facilities with a critical shortage of nurses.

Nurse Scholarship Program

Nursing students receive financial aid in return for working a minimum of 2 years in a health care facility with a critical shortage of nurses.

Faculty Loan Repayment Program

Loan repayments are offered to health professions graduates from disadvantaged backgrounds who serve as faculty for a minimum of 2 years at eligible health professions colleges or universities.

Native Hawaiian Health Scholarship Program

The Native Hawaiian Health Scholarship Program improves the health status of Native Hawaiians by providing scholarships to Native Hawaiians pursuing careers in designated health professions. The scholarship recipients receive training to be culturally competent in the delivery of primary health care services to Native Hawaiians, as well as disadvantaged and vulnerable populations, in underserved rural communities in the state of Hawaii.

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Key Facts

  • In exchange for financial assistance, more than 28,000 clinicians have served in the National Health Service Corps since 1972. Today, over 3,800 NHSC physicians, dentists, nurses and mental health caseworkers treat 4 million patients in underserved communities nationwide — from frontier clinics in the west to distressed inner-city neighborhoods.
  • More than 78 percent of National Health Service Corps clinicians continue to work in underserved communities beyond their service commitment to the Corps.
  • 52 percent of NHSC alumni remain in service to underserved communities between 1 to 15 years after fulfilling the service commitment.
Date Last Reviewed:  May 2017