Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) said an incentive program dating from 2012 has drawn almost 18,000 doctors and nurses to rural Canada, according to Blacklock’s Reporter. “Intended beneficiaries learn about the benefits from different sources, with word of mouth being the most common source of information,” said ESDC in a report. Auditors rated Canada Student Loans (CSL) forgiveness a success, but many medical and nursing students had never heard of it. ESDC found half of doctors and nurses who agreed to work at rural clinics for CSL forgiveness found out about it through family or friends. Parliament amended the Canada Student Loans Act in 2012 to forgive up to $40,000 in loans for doctors and $20,000 for nurses who agreed to work in towns and hamlets for up to five years. ESDC said most doctors and nurses stayed in rural areas after their loans expired. “The majority of the beneficiaries (69%) continued to work in designated communities after they were no longer eligible for loan forgiveness,” it said. It has forgiven $172.2 million in student loans to date. In exchange, 17,921 doctors and nurses agreed to practice outside major cities. “About a fifth of beneficiaries (21%) reported the loan forgiveness benefit was ‘very impactful’ to their decision to work in designated communities,” it said. “Nurses more often reported the benefit to be very impactful.”Without student loan forgiveness, it said 38% of doctors and 42% of nurses reported they would be unlikely to move to a designated community. Some 600 communities attracted a new doctor or nurse because of it. “The total number of communities with at least one doctor or nurse beneficiary is trending upward,” said ESDC.“The increase was more noticeable as the benefit was developing from 2012 to 2015.”Cabinet introduced a promised 50% bonus on CSL forgiveness for medical students who agreed to work in rural Canada in November.READ MORE: Canadian doctors to receive 50% loan forgiveness for rural moves“While there are many reasons for doctors and nurses to work in rural and remote areas, research demonstrates monetary incentives are an important factor in recruiting doctors and nurses to these communities,” said ESDC. The Canadian Institute for Health Information said Canada has 94,000 doctors. More than nine-tenths of these doctors work in cities.