Exploring the temperament and character traits of rural and urban doctors

J Rural Health. 2009 Winter;25(1):43-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1748-0361.2009.00197.x.


Context: Australia shares many dilemmas with North America regarding shortages of doctors in rural and remote locations. This preliminary study contributes to the establishment of a psychobiological profile for rural doctors by comparing temperament and character traits with an urban cohort.

Purpose: The aim was to compare the individual levels and combinations of temperament (mildly heritable and stable) and character (developmental and modifiable) traits of rural and urban general practitioners (GPs).

Methods: Rural (n = 120) and urban (n = 94) GPs completed a demographic questionnaire and the TCI-R 140 to identify levels of the 7 basic dimensions of temperament and character. These are Novelty Seeking (NS), Harm Avoidance (HA), Reward Dependence (RD), Persistence (PS), Self-Directedness (SD), Cooperativeness (CO), and Self-Transcendence (ST).

Findings: Preliminary results show rural GPs were higher in the temperament traits of NS and lower in HA compared with the urban sample. All female GPs were higher in RD and CO compared with all males, and all older GPs (over 55 years) were lower in RD compared with all younger GPs.

Conclusions: This preliminary work may be the precursor to a new approach for the recruitment and retention of rural doctors through a greater awareness of personality traits conducive to the rural workforce. Further work may help inform appropriate policies to attract and retain this workforce and be a useful adjunct to the counseling of students interested in rural medicine by providing a better understanding of "what it takes" to be a rural doctor.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anxiety
  • Avoidance Learning
  • Character*
  • Cooperative Behavior
  • Dependency, Psychological
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Personality Inventory
  • Physicians, Family / classification
  • Physicians, Family / psychology*
  • Queensland
  • Reward
  • Risk-Taking
  • Rural Health Services*
  • Sex Factors
  • Temperament*
  • Urban Health Services*
  • Workforce