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Med J Aust. 1998 Sep 21;169(6):318-21.

Staying in or leaving rural practice: 1996 outcomes of rural doctors' 1986 intentions.

Author information

1
University of Western Australia, Perth. mkamien@cyllene.uwa.edu.au

Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

To examine the 1996 outcomes of a sample of Western Australian rural doctors who in 1986 had indicated their intentions to stay in or leave rural practice.

DESIGN:

Postal questionnaire survey in December 1996, semi-structured interview and feedback by doctors on a draft of this article.

PARTICIPANTS:

91 respondents from the 101 doctors who in 1986 had filled in a questionnaire on their intentions to stay in or leave rural practice.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES:

Proportion of doctors whose actions by 1996 were at variance with their intentions in 1986, and the reasons for their change of direction.

RESULTS:

49% (22/45) of doctors who intended to leave had stayed ("stayers") and 24% (11/46) who intended to stay had left ("leavers"). Doctors' main concerns in 1986 were overwork, lack of locum relief, professional contact with colleagues, specialist backup in emergencies, downsizing of hospital facilities, continuing medical education, and income. By 1996 stayers had solved most of these professional problems and felt they were doing a special job which made a difference to their community. Conversely, more than half the leavers were unable to solve these problems and felt disempowered and dispirited. Their most potentially solvable problems were overwork, forced deskilling and conflict with other healthcare professionals.

CONCLUSION:

Professional satisfaction was the main reason for doctors staying in or leaving rural practice. Professionally dissatisfied rural doctors reach a critical phase which they have to surmount if they are going to stay. An examination of the positive experiences of the stayers points the way to retaining at least half the potential future leavers.

PMID:
9785529
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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