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Can J Rural Med. 2014 Summer;19(3):93-8.

Medical practice in rural Saskatchewan: factors in physician recruitment and retention.

Author information

  • 1Clinical Assistant Professor, Department of Academic Family Medicine, College of Medicine, University of Saskatchewan, Swift Current, Sask.
  • 2Family Physician, Calgary, Alta.
  • 3Division of Social Accountability; Departments of Community Health and Epidemiology, and Academic Family Medicine; Making the Links program, College of Medicine, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Sask.


in English, French


The recruitment and retention of physicians in rural communities is a challenge throughout Canada and across the globe. In 1976, a group of medical students profiled rural communities with medical practices and produced a summary report entitled Medical Practice in Saskatchewan. Our objective was to repeat the 1976 study and to identify factors that motivate physicians to select rural locations for practice.


Physicians practising in rural Saskatchewan were interviewed in 2011 and 2012. Through qualitative, inductive analysis, we identified themes that drove the recruitment and retention of physicians.


Sixty-two physicians were interviewed and 105 communities profiled. Of the physicians interviewed, 21 noted that the ability to practise full-scope family medicine and having the freedom to practise as they desire was important for recruitment, and 43 reported that these factors influenced their decision to remain in a community. Attraction to a rural lifestyle (cited by 17 physicians), having a rural background (13) and having ties to a specific community (12) were important for recruitment. Feeling appreciated by patients (45), one's spouse and/or family enjoying the community (41), and integration into the community (38) were important factors for retention.


The decision to practise in a rural location correlates with a desire for a broad and varied scope of practice, being attracted to a rural lifestyle and having rural roots. Once physicians establish a rural practice, they are more likely to stay if they can continue a broad scope of practice, if they feel appreciated by their patients, and if their spouses and family are happy in the community.

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