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Rural doctors urge medical schools to get more students out of the bush

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A new study finds that the rural health workforce could be strengthened if medical schools would accept more students from the forest and provide more training and employment in rural settings.

The study, which involved rural clinical colleges at 11 major Australian universities, looked at 1,321 medical graduates, 259 of whom were from rural backgrounds, who were in training after five and eight years.

The data showed that graduates from regions of the country with extended experience in rural clinical schools were 3.6 times more likely to practice in regional areas after eight years, and 4.8 times more likely to work in regional areas.

This compares with peers in larger cities, who had no extensive training or experience in rural areas, according to the study published in Australian Medical Journal.

However, city-raised graduates with extensive rural clinical school experience were more than twice as likely to work in rural and regional areas as those who did not.

The study authors said the data bolstered research on the importance of students’ backgrounds and exposure to rural settings, but more work is needed.

“Factors such as insufficient employment in rural areas, limited training opportunities, fears of social and occupational isolation, and limited employment opportunities for partners can often influence young clinicians when making decisions about where to train and practice,” said lead author Alexa Seal. from the University of Notre Dame.

“More research is needed to understand the barriers and opportunities that shape medical student decision-making, and how we can effectively grow and sustain a rural medical workforce to meet the needs of our communities.”

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