MEDICAL STUDENTS NEED A CONNECTED PATHWAY FOR A RURAL CAREER
Final year students at medical schools across Australia continue to express their interest in rural practice, with this year’s Medical Schools Outcomes Database (MSOD) Report showing close to 36% have a preference for a future career working outside of a capital city. This mirrors last year’s data and reflects the ongoing work of medical schools to seek out, foster and develop students’ interest in a rural career.
The MSOD is an in-depth survey that has been run by Medical Deans Australia and New Zealand each year since 2005, which now has data from over 34,000 students on a range of areas including their background, experiences during medical school, and career interests and intentions.
“The continuing interest in a career outside a capital city from over a third of our students provides a solid basis for policies that leverage this early preference and enable these young doctors to pursue a rewarding and exciting career as a rural doctor – whether that be as a GP, general surgeon, psychiatrist, paediatrician or obstetrician/gynaecologist,” said President of Medical Deans, Professor Ian Symonds.
“Addressing the shortage of doctors – and indeed nurses, allied health, pharmacists and dentists – in rural and regional areas is a key issue that Australia has been grappling with for many years. It is complex and needs a multi-faceted and long-term approach, but there are things that can and need to be done now. Primarily amongst these is the need for policies that connect across and support the whole training pipeline, rather than look at one stage alone. These disconnected policies only add to the bottlenecks,” said Professor Symonds.
“The long-term government support for and investment in building regional teaching infrastructure has been instrumental in enabling medical schools to deliver this outcome. However, unless we ensure these rurally-interested graduates can pursue their training in regional areas, we will continue to lose them to the city,” Professor Symonds reiterated.
The MSOD also showed that graduates’ interest in research remains high (64%). Building an integrated training pathway to grow the clinician-researcher workforce remains a priority as we continue to see numbers fall (by 3.9% between 2013-2017).
“This data shows the interest in research is there,” said Professor Symonds. “We are keen to work with government to share the evidence on how we can reverse this decline in Australia and New Zealand to continue our strong, global research performance”.
Other highlights of the study include:
- 44% final year students express an interest in Indigenous health being part of their future career; this figure rises to 57% for those students who have a rural background
- 85% of graduates want a career involving teaching
- Students who belonged to a university rural health club were nearly 4 times more likely to express a preference for a future career working outside a capital city
- The proportion of those interested in General Practice as a preferred specialty fell slightly this year and is the lowest since 2013 (when it was 17%); it dropped from #2 to #3 in 2018
- The “atmosphere/culture typical of the discipline” continues to top the list of factors that influence students’ preferred future specialty
- Consistently high levels of satisfaction with the program at their medical school and in preparing graduates for their next stage of training and working as an intern.
“The MSOD is a unique, national source of comprehensive data that aren’t otherwise available,” said Medical Deans CEO, Ms Helen Craig.
“Having this set of information and insights into the experiences and interests of our doctors at this early stage of their career is invaluable for those involved in medical education and health workforce policy,” Ms Craig added. “We hope that the commitment of our graduates in taking the time to share their feedback is valued, and that their voice is listened to and informs the policies and plans to help ensure Australia and New Zealand has the future doctor workforce that our communities need.”
Further details of the survey reveal that:
- Over 26% of students from a non-rural background state a preference for a future practice outside a capital city.
- The most popular clinical specialties remain unchanged, with medical graduates continuing to favour adult medicine/internal medicine/physician; surgery; general practice; paediatrics and child health; anaesthesia; and emergency medicine.
- Specialties that remain less popular include: occupational and environmental medicine; addiction medicine; pain medicine; medical administration; and rehabilitation medicine.
- The number of students satisfied with their medical program has remained constant over the five years – with 75% satisfied or very satisfied, and 11% unsatisfied or very unsatisfied.
- Since 2014 student membership of a university rural health club has increased, from 32% to 38%, with 60% of the members coming from a non-rural background.
- The numbers of students with student loans continues to increase, and last year was nearly 11% higher than in 2014, although the number with a personal loan fell slightly.
- The number of students relying on family support continues to gradually increase.
The 2019 Medical Schools Outcomes Database Report can be accessed here.
The MSOD project receives funding from the Australian Government Department of Health. The National Data Report 2019 was prepared with the assistance of the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).
Contact: Helen Craig, CEO Medical Deans Australia and New Zealand
+61 2 8084 6557 or 0449 109 721
Medical Deans Australia and New Zealand Inc. (Medical Deans) is the peak body representing professional entry-level medical education, training and research in Australia and New Zealand. The organisation’s membership comprises the Deans of Australia’s 21 medical schools and the two New Zealand schools. As well as having an extensive representative and advocacy role in the advancement of health and education, Medical Deans auspice and manage a number of substantial projects in relation to medical education and the medical workforce, including the Medical Schools Outcomes Database, Indigenous health and the LIME Network, graduate competencies and benchmarking, clinical supervision, student health, research, and social accountability.
 Australian Government National Health Workforce Data Set https://www.aihw.gov.au/about-our-data/our-data-collections/national-health-workforce-dataset
 Rural Health Clubs are University groups that provide medical, nursing and allied health students with the opportunity to learn more about rural lifestyle and practice https://www.nrhsn.org.au/