The 21st Century GP: recruitment and retention in rural Australia

Institute for Sustainable Futures, UTS
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Cheney, H.E., Campbell, S. & Wilson, E. 2003, The 21st Century GP: recruitment and retention in rural Australia, Institute for Sustainable Futures, Sydney.
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Rural communities are experiencing difficulties recruiting and retaining general practitioners. This discussion paper, based on contemporary research, invites local government and community service organisations to consider the roles they can play in supporting rural GPs in the provision of health care in rural communities. Who are the GPs and what are their needs? Research suggests that more women are becoming GPs and some of them will enter rural practice. Increasingly, Overseas Trained Doctors (OTDs) are available and willing to work in rural areas. In some families, both parents work as doctors and in other instances, doctors are single parents. These are markedly different characteristics to those of GPs over the last century and consequently the needs of GPs, their spouses and families differ today. It appears that young doctors generally and young female doctors particularly, are not attracted to rural practice. For example, almost two thirds of current GP registrars are female but only a quarter of them are likely to enter rural general practice. These would need to be developed in light of the specific requirements of different GPs and the local communities in which they are employed. A related consideration is that 95 per cent of female GPs have primary responsibility for care of children and the household, whether working fulltime or parttime. These family responsibilities result in different needs for rural male and female doctors. Increasing numbers of OTDs working in Australia may represent an opportunity for rural communities to improve medical services. However, adequate support needs to be provided for these doctors. Their needs tend to include greater support in terms of study leave while they further their qualifications and extend to family support needs as they become more settled in rural practice.
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