Context: Scope of practice is an important factor in both training and recruiting rural family physicians.
Purpose: To assess rural Idaho family physicians' scope of practice and to examine variations in scope of practice across variables such as gender, age and employment status.
Methods: A survey instrument was developed based on a literature review and was validated by physician educators, practicing family physicians and executives at the state hospital association. This survey was mailed to rural family physicians practicing in Idaho counties with populations of less than 50,000. Descriptive, bivariate and multivariate analyses were employed to describe and compare scope of practice patterns.
Results: Responses were obtained from 92 of 248 physicians (37.1% response rate). Idaho rural family physicians reported providing obstetrical services in the areas of prenatal care (57.6%), vaginal delivery (52.2%) and C-sections (37.0%); other operating room services (43.5%); esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD) or colonoscopy services (22.5%); emergency room coverage (48.9%); inpatient admissions (88.9%); mental health services (90.1%); nursing home services (88.0%); and supervision to midlevel care providers (72.5%). Bivariate analyses showed differences in scope of practice patterns across gender, age group and employment status. Binomial logistic regression models indicated that younger physicians were roughly 3 times more likely to provide prenatal care and perform vaginal deliveries than older physicians in rural areas.
Conclusion: Idaho practicing rural family physicians report a broad scope of practice. Younger, employed and female rural family medicine physicians are important subgroups for further study.