Why doctors choose small towns: A developmental model of rural physician recruitment and retention

UC Berkeley - UC San Francisco Joint Medical Program, Berkeley, CA 94720, United States.
Social Science [?] Medicine (Impact Factor: 2.89). 09/2009; 69(9):1368-76. DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2009.08.002
Source: PubMed


Shortages of health care professionals have plagued rural areas of the USA for more than a century. Programs to alleviate them have met with limited success. These programs generally focus on factors that affect recruitment and retention, with the supposition that poor recruitment drives most shortages. The strongest known influence on rural physician recruitment is a "rural upbringing," but little is known about how this childhood experience promotes a return to rural areas, or how non-rural physicians choose rural practice without such an upbringing. Less is known about how rural upbringing affects retention. Through twenty-two in-depth, semi-structured interviews with both rural- and urban-raised physicians in northeastern California and northwestern Nevada, this study investigates practice location choice over the life course, describing a progression of events and experiences important to rural practice choice and retention in both groups. Study results suggest that rural exposure via education, recreation, or upbringing facilitates future rural practice through four major pathways. Desires for familiarity, sense of place, community involvement, and self-actualization were the major motivations for initial and continuing small-town residence choice. A history of strong community or geographic ties, either urban or rural, also encouraged initial rural practice. Finally, prior resilience under adverse circumstances was predictive of continued retention in the face of adversity. Physicians' decisions to stay or leave exhibited a cost-benefit pattern once their basic needs were met. These results support a focus on recruitment of both rural-raised and community-oriented applicants to medical school, residency, and rural practice. Local mentorship and "place-specific education" can support the integration of new rural physicians by promoting self-actualization, community integration, sense of place, and resilience. Health policy efforts to improve the physician workforce must address these complexities in order to support the variety of physicians who choose and remain in rural practice.

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Available from: Shelley R. Adler
    • "While Scott et al.[28]argue that strong financial incentives would be required to make small rural towns attractive for GPs, Günther et al.[27]highlight that non-financial attributes such as the availability of child care facilities and fewer on-call duties might reduce such financial demands. Hancock et al.[29]note that also the personal history might play an important role for the willingness to settle as a physician in a rural area. See Bäringhausen and Bloom[30]for a review. "
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    ABSTRACT: The evolving lack of ambulatory care providers especially in rural areas increasingly challenges the strict separation between ambulatory and inpatient care in Germany. Some consider allowing hospitals to treat ambulatory patients to tackle potential shortages of ambulatory care in underserved areas. In this paper, we develop an integrated index of spatial accessibility covering multiple dimensions of health care. This index may contribute to the empirical evidence concerning potential risks and benefits of integrating the currently separated health care sectors. Accessibility is measured separately for each type of care based on official data at the district level. Applying an Improved Gravity Model allows us to factor in potential cross-border utilization. We combine the accessibilities for each type of care into a univariate index by adapting the concept of regional multiple deprivation measurement to allow for a limited substitutability between health care sectors. The results suggest that better health care accessibility in urban areas persists when taking a holistic view. We believe that this new index may provide an empirical basis for an inter-sectoral capacity planning.
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    • "We included an attribute that specified the geographic location of the job. The characteristics of the town or city where a GP is located, and the lifestyle opportunities that are associated with those characteristics, are important for successful recruitment and retention (Hancock et al., 2009; Humphreys et al., 2002). "
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    ABSTRACT: A key policy issue in many countries is the maldistribution of doctors across geographic areas, which has important effects on equity of access and health care costs. Many government programs and incentive schemes have been established to encourage doctors to practise in rural areas. However, there is little robust evidence of the effectiveness of such incentive schemes. The aim of this study is to examine the preferences of general practitioners (GPs) for rural location using a discrete choice experiment. This is used to estimate the probabilities of moving to a rural area, and the size of financial incentives GPs would require to move there. GPs were asked to choose between two job options or to stay at their current job as part of the Medicine in Australia: Balancing Employment and Life (MABEL) longitudinal survey of doctors. 3727 GPs completed the experiment. Sixty five per cent of GPs chose to stay where they were in all choices presented to them. Moving to an inland town with less than 5000 population and reasonable levels of other job characteristics would require incentives equivalent to 64% of current average annual personal earnings ($116,000). Moving to a town with a population between 5000 and 20,000 people would require incentives of at least 37% of current annual earnings, around $68,000. The size of incentives depends not only on the area but also on the characteristics of the job. The least attractive rural job package would require incentives of at least 130% of annual earnings, around $237,000. It is important to begin to tailor incentive packages to the characteristics of jobs and of rural areas.
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    • "Our results point to a desire to meet community need [31] particularly in the public cohort where Factor 2 (Participation in Community) was the strongest predictor of retention after adjusting for age group. These findings are consistent with O’Toole et al., (2008) suggesting the importance of social relationships in rural workforce retention in allied health [24] and also with research in respect of rural nurses [32] and doctors [27]. "
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    ABSTRACT: Background: Policy initiatives to improve retention of the rural health workforce have relied primarily on evidence for rural doctors, most of whom practice under a private business model. Much of the literature for rural allied health (AH) workforce focuses on the public sector. The AH professions are diverse, with mixed public, private or combined practice settings. This study explores sector differences in factors affecting retention of rural AH professionals. Methods: This study compared respondents from the 2008 Rural Allied Health Workforce (RAHW) survey recruiting all AH professionals in rural New South Wales. Comparisons between public (n = 833) and private (n = 756) groups were undertaken using Chi square analysis to measure association for demographics, job satisfaction and intention to leave. The final section of the RAHW survey comprised 33 questions relating to retention. A factor analysis was conducted for each cohort. Factor reliability was assessed and retained factors were included in a binary logistic regression analysis for each cohort predicting intention to leave. Results: Six factors were identified: professional isolation, participation in community, clinical demand, taking time away from work, resources and 'specialist generalist' work. Factors differed slightly between groups. A seventh factor (management) was present only in the public cohort. Gender was not a significant predictor of intention to leave. Age group was the strongest predictor of intention to leave with younger and older groups being significantly more likely to leave than middle aged.In univariate logistic analysis (after adjusting for age group), the ability to get away from work did not predict intention to leave in either group. In multivariate analysis, high clinical demand predicted intention to leave in both the public (OR = 1.40, 95% CI = 1.08, 1.83) and private (OR = 1.61, 95% CI = 1.15, 2.25) cohorts. Professional isolation (OR = 1.39. 95% CI = 1.11, 1.75) and Participation in community (OR = 1.57, 95% CI = 1.13, 2.19) also contributed to the model in the public cohort. Conclusions: This paper demonstrates differences between those working in public versus private sectors and suggests that effectiveness of policy initiatives may be improved through better targeting.
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