Background: Because the distribution of physician services in the rural United States continues to be a problem, rural residency tracks in family practice have been developed as a strategy to acculturate residents into a rural practice model. Residents complete the first year of training in an urban-based program and the last 2 years in a rural community.
Methods: We surveyed all 77 graduates of 13 nationally distributed rural training tracks that had graduates between 1988 and 1997.
Results: The response rate was 83% (n = 64). Seventy-six percent of respondents practice in a rural community, and 61% practice in federally designated health professional shortage areas. A total of 69% of respondents admitted patients to rural hospitals, 67% provided labor and delivery services, and 48% performed Cesarean sections. Existing physician groups were major influences on practice location. Thirty-nine percent were near their hometown, and 45% were near the community in which they completed residency training. Only 14% had a financial obligation to the community, and 94% reported that their rural training was adequate or better.
Conclusions: Most graduates of rural training tracks have located their practice sites in rural communities, and most graduates provide labor and delivery services. Location decisions were associated with existing physician groups, hospitals, hometowns, and proximity to training sites.