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It's More than the Money: The Relationship between Social Values and Demographic Change in Sustaining a Rural General Practitioner Workforce

  • Year: 2004
  • Author: Cheney, Helen; Wilson, Erin; Willetts, Juliet
  • Journal Name: Rural Society
  • Journal Number: Vol. 14, No. 3
  • Country: Australia

Historically, rural General Practitioners (GPs) in Australia tended to be male, Anglo, middle-class and in nuclear family structures, whereas the contemporary workforce demographic is increasingly female and of diverse ethnicity. Demographic trends and changing social values of university-educated professionals directly affect services in rural communities. GPs are key providers of primary health care in rural Australia. Despite the dedication of significant resources to recruiting and retaining rural GPs, a significant problem remains. This research project focused on identifying and addressing the family and personal support needs of two cohorts of rural female GPs and rural registrars, as a means of increasing retention in rural areas. In response to the complex and diverse needs articulated by rural GPs and their spouses during the project, the research team worked collaboratively with the participants to implement and evaluate a number of strategies. The project found that the strategies to address family and personal needs could be grouped into three areas: individualised strategies; strategies to do with practice restructure (predominantly aimed at achieving increased family time); and rural development strategies aimed at broader level change in the community. We argue that strategies addressing wider rural community needs (for example, recreation or children's education) are essential and require cross-sectoral approaches; to date, these have received little attention.

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