(Australian Associated Press)
Longer postings and more training positions would help better establish doctors in Australia’s rural communities.
A University of Queensland study released on Wednesday found governments could encourage trainee physicians to return to the bush with stronger leadership, higher quality training programs and better flexibility.
Researcher Sarah Strasser said rural physicians had a unique mix of general sub-specialist skills compared with city physicians.
“We also found that trainees who spend longer times in rural areas report more positive experiences and greater intention to work rurally,” Professor Strasser said.
The study used 2016 data on more than 1500 specialists, with over 500 rurally based physicians or specialists.
It found rural doctors were more likely to be men, in the later part of their career, and spent more direct time with patients and less on education activities than city-based physicians.
Women were less likely to stay on in rural areas, despite a majority of trainee doctors – up to 67 per cent – being female.
Rural trainees reported less support and supervision from qualified specialists than those in metropolitan areas, and a sense of professional isolation because of their remote location.
The study said they felt their work was stigmatised as less important than doctors in the city, and were poorly represented in college medical policies or education programs.
A lack of advanced-level trainees also made it difficult to sustain services in rural communities.
Researchers made multiple recommendations including that governments and medical colleges improve training flexibility, increase the length of rural embeds and better recognise the work of rural doctors.