In rural Oregon a scarcity of water is always possible, but it is becoming clear to a newcomer that the scarcity of certain career specialists is more like probable.

A veteran special education teacher, for example, was a hot commodity in recent weeks. There is a shortage of special ed teachers in America, not just in Eastern Oregon. Hit harder than most by federal and state rules and demands, special ed hasn't been as attractive as other teaching careers to many student teachers. They see the special ed staff at school or in meetings long after the rest of the lights go out and figure who needs that?

Special ed teachers are not the only shortages in teaching. Science, math and foreign language teachers are all in short supply for rural districts and have been for years.

There are other shortages in Eastern Oregon that are common with the rest of the nation, but more so.

Doctor shortages are perhaps the most talked about lament in America and elsewhere in the world. Even countries that are not dominated by HMOs or government health care are fearing a shortage of primary and specialized care physicians. All those shortages re magnified in rural settings.

Here in Pendleton we read of doctor retirements without accompanying introductions to the new doctor.

"We can't even get a doctor to come and interview," one Pendleton doctor explained. "They do their residency in big cities. They're either from big cities or they married people from big cities. They won't consider rural places.

"We can't convince them of how wonderful a place like Pendleton is if we can't get them to come visit."

There are other shortages. Kansas is desperate for firefighters, for example.

Hospitals all around the country, not just here, are contracting for technicians to come in from far away to staff their diagnostic equipment such as ultra sound machines. There's a national shortage of such technicians.

Government got so concerned about a perceived shortage of rural airline pilots a few years ago it held hearings to consider relaxing some safety and licensing standards - an idea that was thankfully still born.

Even rural churches are finding it difficult to recruit ministers to tend to their non-urban flocks.

It would be a mistake to think all of these shortages are because there's no sushi bar in town or that there is more money to be made in urban centers.

There is no doubt that for those interested in the urban life there are more opportunities for lots of activities than there are in rural areas. This has even affected the recruitment of veterinarians, even large animal vets.

Such a shortage is counter intuitive, but it's real in many rural, agricultural areas.

In the end, rural areas are sparsely populated because living in the country, as special as it is, isn't for everyone.

Having a safe and generous place to raise your kids is not the first item on every parent's list.

Driving anywhere in town in 10 minutes or less, without grid lock, is not that precious to those who have no such experience.

Knowing all the people on your block and further down the street doesn't make the radar screen for many people who prefer the anonymity of big cities.

Given this, we have found our places in these rural places and should not fret. While we're in the minority in America, we're not alone. And some of those kindred spirits, given the chance, would like to live with the peace and plenty we know in our towns.

We just need to be sure we don't lower our standards or expectations. We must be creative in attracting and recruiting those who will want to call our place home.

We must remember, if living here was for everyone, here wouldn't be here anymore. Here would be somewhere else, and we wouldn't want to live there.

Recommended for you

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.