How the training pathways and capacity of rural physicians inform their scope of practice: A qualitative study examining the experiences of Australian and international medical graduates in South-East New South Wales, Australia

Sarath Burgis-Kasthala, Suzanne Bain-Donohue (Lead / Corresponding author), Ellen Tailby, Kathryn Stonestreet, Malcolm Moore

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Abstract

INTRODUCTION: Current strategies to address shortages of rural doctors focus on developing a pipeline for rural generalist practice. Limited research has explored how doctors' professional journey engenders the skills required to practice rurally.

OBJECTIVE: This paper analyses how rural general practitioners' clinical pathway informs their scope of practice and future retention.

DESIGN: Qualitative thematic analysis using semi-structured telephone interviews. Twenty-one general practitioners appointed in their local health district of Murrumbidgee and Southern New South Wales, Australia, within the past 10 years. Participants comprised 10 Australian medical graduates (AMG) and 11 international medical graduates (IMG).

FINDINGS: AMGs and IMGs contrasted how their pathway into rural practice, and capacity to work rurally, informed their scope of practice. Australian medical graduates' familiarity with rural areas was consolidated through congruous experiences, including at rural clinical schools. Paradoxically, the fluency of their training limited the amount of unsupervised experience and confidence AMGs gained. Together with a focus on work-life balance, this limited many to providing mainstream general practice, precluding extending their scope of practice. International medical graduates described disseminated experiences, often unsupervised in high-volume contexts. However, a lack of professional opportunities prevented them from extending their scope of practice.

DISCUSSION: IMG and AMG motivation and pathway for working rurally differ. Respective cohorts have concerns regarding requisite skills and knowledge for rural practice, which incorporates opportunity and recognition. Entry points for training should be variable to allow consideration of life stage, prior skill development and extension of scope of practice.

CONCLUSION: Doctors' scope of practice is informed by their pathways into rural practice. Australian medical graduates may not gain adequate competence during expedited training programs to confidently undertake extended clinical activities. International medical graduates, however lacked the opportunities and support, to utilise their expertise in rural practice. Complementarily utilising the expertise and commitment of both AMGs and IMGs may synergistically address workforce shortages.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)394-405
Number of pages12
JournalThe Australian Journal of Rural Health
Volume32
Issue number2
Early online date19 Mar 2024
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2024

Keywords

  • Humans
  • New South Wales
  • Foreign Medical Graduates/psychology
  • Qualitative Research
  • Rural Health Services
  • Female
  • Male
  • Scope of Practice
  • Adult
  • Interviews as Topic
  • General Practitioners/psychology
  • rural
  • pathways
  • general practice
  • workforce
  • capacity building

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Family Practice

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