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Challenges on Rural Practice Retention

Challenges on Rural Practice Retention

A McGrail research supports the effectiveness of the Australian Government’s program on general practitioner recruitment and training across Australia. However, it also pointed out the weakness of the program in ensuring workforce retention.

In the early 1990s, the Australian government established a program that recruits and trains medical students who will work in a rural background. Among the initiatives of the Australian government were the Rural Undergraduate Support and Coordination Program, Rural Clinical School, and Rural Clinical Training and Support Program. These programs trained medical students who came from rural areas and placed medical training in a rural location. Afterward, the Australian General Practice Training Program ensured at least 50% of vocational training to be placed in rural or remote areas. These programs did not just improve the number of GPs in rural areas as it also balanced out the workforce in the sector.

However, the question would be if the increased number of GPs in the rural areas necessarily translates to a sustained workforce? Various factors affect the decision of healthcare professionals in their professional careers.

One indicator of this matter would be the correlation between the likelihood of staying in a rural set-up and work hours. GPs in rural areas work on an average of 45.8 hours per week while metropolitan GPs with 38 hours. This difference reflects how the choices of GPs in their professional career is affected by the time they need in their workplaces.

Also, despite the increase in the proportion of GPs with procedural skills in rural, there has been a reduction in terms of who is practicing it. This entails how professional development contributes to how GPs perceive their positions.

It would be absurd to neglect the commendable features of the previous initiatives to improve GP recruitment and training in rural areas. However, one should not fail as well in taking a closer look or precise scrutiny upon its features that have been changed. The Australian government has been proactive in establishing new routes to improve the healthcare workforce in rural areas. Its effects will only be felt after 5-10 years.

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