Does recruitment lead to retention? Rural Clinical School training experiences and subsequent intern choices.Rural Remote Health. 2006 Jan-Mar; 6(1):511.RR
The Australian Rural Clinical Schools, established nationally in 2000-2001, have provided an opportunity for medical students to undertake their clinical training across a network of hospitals, general practice surgeries and community medical centres in locations throughout Australia. The Rural Clinical School at the University of Queensland was established in 2002, as the Rural Clinical Division (RCD) of the School of Medicine, which provides a four-year graduate MB BS program. Students may elect to train in their 3rd and/or 4th year in one of three clinical divisions, namely Central, Southern (both based in Brisbane) or Rural which comprises teaching sites in south west Queensland and central Queensland region. Training must be of an equivalent nature throughout these three divisions, because students all sit the same examinations. Rigorous evaluation of the RCD teaching program underpins the goals of continuing improvement of both education and resources, and is also a key component of the reporting mechanisms linked to ongoing Commonwealth funding. Students' perception of their medical education at the RCD is the major focus of such evaluations in order to assist both educational improvement and required student recruitment. With this in mind, a questionnaire, the 'Year 4 Exit Survey' was developed to evaluate medical student perceptions of their 4th year experience at the RCD. Coupled to this was an analysis of internship choices to evaluate the important related issue of medical graduate retention.
The increasing popularity of the RCD has prompted further investigation into the intern placement choice by these students. The provision of a positive medical education experience in a Rural Clinical School might be expected to influence this intern choice to favour a rural location. This preliminary report provides the results of the evaluations by one cohort of year 4 students and explores the relationship between rural undergraduate medical training experiences and subsequent recruitment and retention of junior medical personnel within local rural hospitals.
The Year 4 Exit Survey contained 63 questions and was a combination of open-ended and forced answer items. The survey was divided into the following sections: demographics, career interests, experience of rural living, interest in rural medical practice, perceptions of rural communities, perceptions of the RCD, rating of their medical training, the impact of the RCD on their desire to practice medicine in a rural area, their opinions on the most and least valuable study experiences at either site and their suggestions on how that experience might be improved. A final question asked them their choice of internship location and the reasons why they were or were not staying at their present RCD site.
Overall there was a high degree of student satisfaction with all aspects of their medical education. However there was a discrepancy between these findings and subsequent internship choices. Reasons for this discrepancy were associated with the students' adverse perceptions of their future workforce environment and professional support.
Provision of positive rural training experiences and quality medical education has been shown to increase interest in rural medicine and encourage a desire to pursue a medical career in a rural area. However a quality undergraduate rural medical education does not guarantee immediate transition to rural internship. If the ultimate goal of improving the rural medical workforce is to be achieved, the present high levels of recruitment by the Rural Clinical Schools and their provision of a positive rural training experience must be matched by a supportive clinical workplace environment. Studies are needed to look more closely at the transition period between medical graduate and intern.