The rural health workforce could be bolstered if medical schools accepted more students from the bush and offered more training and placements in country settings, a new study suggests.
The study, involving rural clinical schools from 11 major Australian universities, looked at where 1321 medical graduates, 259 of whom had rural backgrounds, were practising five and eight years on.
The data showed graduates from country areas who had extended rural clinical school experience were 3.6 times more likely to practise in regional areas eight years on, and 4.8 times more likely to work in regional areas.
That’s compared with their metropolitan peers, who did not have lengthy training and experience in rural settings, according to the study published in the Medical Journal of Australia.
However, city-raised graduates who had extended experience at rural clinical schools were more than twice as likely to work in rural and regional areas than those without it.
The authors of the study said the data firmed up research about the importance of students’ origins and exposure to rural settings, but more work was needed.
“Factors such as inadequate workforce in rural areas, limited training opportunities, fears of social and professional isolation, and restricted employment opportunities for partners can often influence junior doctors when they are making decisions about where to train and practise,” said lead author Alexa Seal, from the University of Notre Dame.
“Further research is needed to understand the barriers and opportunities that are shaping medical students’ decision making, and how we can effectively grow and sustain a rural medical workforce to meet the needs of our communities.”