An exploration of when urban background medical students become interested in rural practice

Australian Rural Health Education Network
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Rural and Remote Health, 2006, 6 (1), pp. 452 - 462
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While it is well recognized that rural background medical students are more likely to enter rural practice than urban background, students' research shows that 34% to 67% of rural doctors have urban backgrounds. This article explores the factors influencing urban background medical students' interest in rural practice. The study used a qualitative design employing focus groups and semi-structured interviews. Data were collected at three Australian universities and a national student rural health conference, and the participants were 82 first and final year medical students who participated in focus groups, and 49 who were interviewed individually. Data were analysed using the N6 computer package to manage the data. Forty-three urban background students indicated an interest in rural practice and the data presented in this article relate to this group of students. This article presents an analysis of data from one part of a larger project conducted from 2002 to 2004 investigating medical student career choice. The students' level of interest in rural practice depends on an interaction between student and location factors and other external influences with students seeking to match their needs and interests with locations. Some are 'predisposed' to develop interest in rural practice via their familiarity with rural areas, level of altruism, interest in generalist work, and interest in certain leisure activities. Exposure to rural locations provides knowledge about different places. Students recognize differences between rural locations in relation to the size of town and the remoteness of the town, and they seek specific rural locations which will match their values and interests. Existing social relationships can be enabling or limiting factors in the student's ability to follow through their interest in rural practice and to enter rural practice, and are important in the students finding a match between themselves and an appropriate location.
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