Context: The family medicine clerkship at the University of Calgary is a 4-week mandatory rotation in the final year of a 3-year programme. Students are given the opportunity to experience rural practice by training at 1 of several rural practices.
Objective: To determine whether exposure to a rural educational experience changes students' likelihood of doing a rural locum or rural practice and whether student background and gender are related to these practice plans.
Method: Clinical clerks from the Classes of 1996-2000, who trained at rural sites, responded to questionnaire items both before and after the rural educational experience. Responses to the questionnaire items and discipline of postgraduate training served as dependent variables. Student background and gender were independent variables.
Results: As a result of the rural educational experience all students were more likely to do a rural locum. Compared to their urban-raised peers, students from rural backgrounds reported a significantly greater likelihood of doing a rural locum and practising in a rural community, irrespective of gender or participating in a rural educational experience. There was no relationship between background and career choice.
Conclusion: A rural educational experience at the undergraduate level increases the stated likelihood of students participating in rural locums and helps to solidify existing rural affiliations. Students with rural backgrounds have a more favourable attitude toward rural practice. This pre-post study provides further support for the preferential admission to medical school of students with rural backgrounds to help alleviate the rural physician shortage.