Recruitment and retention of general practitioners in rural Canada and Australia: a review of the literature

Can J Rural Med. 2013 Winter;18(1):13-23.


Introduction: Both Canada and Australia are facing severe shortages of primary health workers, and these shortages are exacerbated in rural and remote communities. This literature review highlights similarities and explores the factors that serve to attract and retain family practitioners in underserved regions of Canada and Australia.

Methods: We used MEDLINE on OvidSP to review the literature between Jan. 1, 2000, and June 30, 2012. We excluded sources if the primary objective did not consider recruitment or retention of general practitioners.

Results: We found a total of 114 sources, 28 of which were excluded, leaving 86 sources for review. We organized results according to 5 life stages of family physicians in rural practice and graded the literature according to the strength of the methodology and the relevance of the findings. We chronologically categorized Canadian and Australian literature that discussed recruitment and retention of family practitioners into rural practice.

Conclusion: Various factors that pertain to each life stage of a family physician have been shown to positively correlate with the eventual decision to commence and remain practising in rural areas. Training programs should be better structured to attract candidates who are more likely to enter rural practice. Policy-makers should be mindful of these findings, because improvements in retention will deliver large financial savings.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Australia
  • Canada
  • General Practice*
  • Personnel Selection*
  • Rural Health Services*
  • Workforce