Introduction: A large of amount of literature exists on the factors that influence the recruitment and retention of rural general practitioners (GPs) in Australia and other countries. The selection of a rural practice location is known to be influenced by professional, personal and family, community and economic factors. Most of this research has been undertaken on the either the baby boomer generation or their predecessors, and this is likely to have influenced the responses gained. Generation X and Y doctors are known to have a different perception regarding workload, lifestyle and the support required to practise. The aim of this study was to explore, from a Generation X perspective, factors deemed important by general practice graduates in selecting a rural practice at completion of their training. The study also aimed to identify the process general practice graduates use to identify a potential rural practice, and when they commence this process.
Methods: Semi-structured interviews were held with 15 rural pathway general practice registrars in their final year of training with 2 regional training providers in South Australia. The interview topics included source of information on potential practices, their ideal rural practice and community, the process used to select a practice, and when they commenced this process. Phenomenological hermeneutic thematic analysis of interview transcripts was undertaken to identify themes and sub-themes.
Results: For an ideal rural practice, registrars wished to work in a practice with a friendly atmosphere, good business structure, support from senior GPs and in close proximity to a hospital. They also wanted reasonable on-call arrangements, the chance to develop further skills (such as anaesthetics or obstetrics) and the freedom to practise according to their interests. They also emphasised the importance of a good team and an ethical practice. In terms of community, registrars wanted a positive living place, access to amenities such as childcare, good schools and the opportunity of work for their spouses. They also appreciated attractions such as the beach, or green farmland. Word of mouth, referrals by colleagues and experience of a practice were the most common approaches to finding a suitable rural practice. The majority of the registrars commenced selection of a rural practice in their last 6 months of training.
Conclusions: Many of the factors identified by the Generation X registrars were similar to those identified by the previous generation. However, they also identified factors such as a positive team environment and practice with good ethics as important. The results can be used to tailor the marketing of rural practices to Generation X general practice registrars.