Objective: The aim of this study was to identify the factors that influence foreign doctors' community integration and examine how these affect their intention to stay in the rural community.
Design: Qualitative study using life-history perspective.
Setting: Rural communities throughout Victoria.
Participants: Fifty-seven overseas-trained doctors (OTDs) working throughout rural Victoria, Australia.
Main outcome measures: Key factors of community integration influencing OTDs' decision to stay in or leave a rural community.
Results: Maintaining cultural and religious values, as well as relationships to their respective ethnic communities is important to OTDs. While they do not expect excessive support from the community they appreciated the cultures of welcoming or 'embracing differences'. Supportive communication and supervisory support positively influence OTDs' appreciation of what the rural community can offer them and how they might overcome any difficulties that they face with their rural practice and life.
Conclusion: As well as ensuring that OTDs' professional needs are met, the importance of a supportive environment within the clinic and community awareness of the OTDs' needs should not be underestimated as influences on an OTD's retention in a rural community.