Building a rural physician workforce

UQ research study of the needs and perspectives of rural physicians and paediatricians

Timely access to medical care is important for all Australians, including the one third who live and work rurally, but their health is generally poorer compared with those in large metropolitan cities. Rural doctors, including rural physicians and paediatricians are also part of these communities practising rural medicine whilst servicing the increased health needs in a maldistributed health system. Despite huge increases of rural training of medical students, specialist training nationally continues to occur largely in metropolitan areas and thus sees little access improvement for rural populations. It is known there is a need for improved distribution of  rural specialist services, including building a stronger and larger rural physician workforce, an integrated framework supporting the training of rural physicians and provision of rural services and an education and learning environment supporting physician trainees and supervisors, as they live, train and work in a health system network based in any or all of rural, regional, metro or remote areas. This study aimed to identify specialist needs of training, supervision and clinical practice to support building a rural physician workforce. Whilst recognising the current national strategies of the Commonwealth to improve workforce distribution, this study identifies the service and workforce gaps and inadequacies, training challenges, organisational issues and policy weaknesses  - which can all be strengthened from innovative academic research as in this Study.

Research on training pathways and professional support for building a rural physician workforce

This research study, completed in April 2019, engaged 859 College members through a national survey and 70 interviewees. It focusses on producing evidence across five research themes that together support building a larger and more sustainable rural physician and paediatrician workforce. It was funded by the Commonwealth Department of Health and is a research partnership between University of Queensland’s Rural Clinical School and School of Public Health with the Royal Australasian College of Physicians and the Queensland Rural Medical Service (Queensland Health). The Study has developed evidence about the training experience and perspectives, the valuing of training and supervision, training pathways for rural physicians, an improved training environment, the individual intent and attraction for rural service, notions of characteristics of the professional identity of rural physicians, the participation of colleges and departments and integrates concepts for an improved/strengthened Australian rural specialist training and service framework.

This research evidence supports a focussed and sustainable rural physician workforce.

Download the brochure of study findings (PDF, 389.5 KB)