Objective: To determine whether completing a year of the Rural Clinical School of Western Australia (RCSWA) program is associated with entering the rural medical workforce.
Design and setting: Cohort study of graduates from the University of Western Australia who completed Year 5 of medical school between 2002 and 2009, comparing work location (identified from the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency database in March-June 2013) between those who participated in the RCSWA (RCSWA graduates) and those who did not (controls).
Main outcome measure: Rural or urban work location of graduates.
Results: Of 1116 eligible graduates, 1017 (91.1%) could be traced and were included in the study. Of 258 RCSWA graduates, 42 (16.3%) were working rurally compared with 36 of 759 controls (4.7%). Of 195 RCSWA graduates from urban backgrounds, 29 (14.9%) were working rurally compared with 26 of 691 urban-background controls (3.8%). Of 63 rural-background RCSWA graduates, 13 (20.6%) were working rurally, compared with 10 of 68 rural-background controls (14.7%). Using logistic regression, RCSWA participation had a strong relationship with working rurally (rural-background RCSWA graduates: odds ratio [OR], 7.5; 95% CI, 3.5-15.8; urban-background RCSWA graduates: OR, 5.1; 95% CI, 2.9-9.1). Rural background without RCSWA participation (OR, 4.2; 95% CI, 1.8-9.2) and older age (age in 2012, 30-39 years: OR, 2.2; 95% CI, 1.3-3.7 v ≥ 40 years: OR, 6.6; 95% CI, 2.8-15.0) were also significant factors for working rurally.
Conclusions: Participation in the RCSWA is strongly associated with greater likelihood of working rurally. Graduates from urban backgrounds who participated in the RCSWA were much more likely to work in rural areas than those who did not. These data substantiate the RCSWA as an effective rural workforce strategy.