A cohort study of family practice residency graduates in a predominantly rural state: initial practice site selection and trajectories of practice movement

J Rural Health. 2003 Winter;19(1):47-54. doi: 10.1111/j.1748-0361.2003.tb00541.x.


Limited information is available on long-term patterns of practice location choice among family physicians, although these patterns will significantly affect the quantity, quality, and continuity of health care provided in rural areas. From 1992 through 2000, five biennial surveys were administered to graduates of three family practice residency programs. Graduates were asked the location of their current and previous practice site locations, specific practice information, and global satisfaction with family practice. Identifiable practice sites were assigned a U.S. Department of Agriculture rural-urban continuum code based on the county in which the practice was located. The use of rural-urban continuum codes as a measure of rurality was believed to be particularly applicable to the small rural and frontier counties typical of the Great Plains region. For purposes of this study, practice locations were considered rural if they were in rural-urban continuum codes 7, 8, or 9. Of 593 graduates, 514 (87%) returned at least one questionnaire. Overall, about one-third of graduates had chosen their first practice sites in counties with rural-urban continuum codes of 7, 8, or 9. While most graduates remained in their initial practice site, almost half moved at least once. Those who left nonmetropolitan practices tended to move to less rural locations, though a few moved against this gradient. Moves away from the initial practice site occurred after a median of 3 years, and the likelihood of a first move decreased rapidly 5 to 6 years after graduation. Much remains to be learned about decisions to enter or leave practice in rural-urban continuum code 7, 8, and 9 counties.

MeSH terms

  • Career Mobility
  • Cohort Studies
  • Continuity of Patient Care
  • Family Practice* / education
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency / statistics & numerical data*
  • Kansas
  • Population Dynamics
  • Professional Practice Location / statistics & numerical data*
  • Professional Practice Location / trends
  • Rural Health Services*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Urban Health Services*
  • Workforce