Introduction: Rural Australia is facing a potential crisis in the supply and retention of GPs, that is compounded by an aging and earlier-retiring workforce compared with metropolitan areas. The objective of this study was to explore the most important retention factors in a sample of older rural GPs.
Methods: Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 16 rural GPs practising in the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales, Australia. A thematic analysis was conducted on verbatim transcripts.
Results: GPs used, or perceived as useful, a range of strategies to enable a happy and productive working life beyond traditional retirement age. These strategies covered personal, practice based, and professional strategies as well as systemic factors beyond the practice. The most ubiquitous experiences, initiatives or conditions representing these overarching themes related to being able to achieve a sensible workload, working in a supportive team environment, and being able to fulfil one's individual need for clinical variety or specialised professional interests.
Conclusions: Through consultation with older rural GPs, insights were gained into how to develop and implement effective retention strategies, by identifying those factors which are amenable to intervention at either the personal, practice, local or legislative level. A set of potential solutions were proposed which may be instrumental in keeping valued Australian rural GPs happily working for longer.