A framework for enhancing continuing medical education for rural physicians: A summary of the literature

Med Teach. 2010;32(11):e501-8. doi: 10.3109/0142159X.2010.519065.


Background: Recruitment and retention of rural physicians is vital for rural health care. A key deterrent to rural practice has been identified as professional isolation and access to continuing medical education/continuing professional development (CME/CPD).

Aims: The purpose of this article is to review and synthesize key themes from the literature related to CME/CPD and rural physicians to facilitate CME/CPD planning.

Methods: A search of the peer-reviewed English language literature and a review of relevant grey literature (e.g., reports, conference proceedings) was conducted.

Results: There is robust evidence demonstrating that the CME/CPD needs of rural physicians are unique. Promising practices in regional CME/CPD outreach and advanced procedural skills training and other up-skilling areas have been reported. Distance learning initiatives have been particularly helpful in increasing access to CME/CPD. The quality of evidence supporting the overall effect of these different strategies on recruitment and retention is variable.

Conclusion: Supporting the professional careers of rural physicians requires the provision of integrated educational programs that focus on specific information and skills. Future research should examine the linkage between enhanced CME/CPD access and its effect on factors related to retention of physicians in rural communities. A proposed framework is described to aid in developing CME/CPD for rural practitioners.

MeSH terms

  • Education, Medical, Continuing / organization & administration*
  • Humans
  • Physicians / supply & distribution*
  • Review Literature as Topic
  • Rural Health Services*
  • Workforce