Toward a global understanding of students who participate in rural primary care longitudinal integrated clerkships: considering personality across 2 continents

J Rural Health. 2014 Spring;30(2):164-74. doi: 10.1111/jrh.12039. Epub 2013 Jul 29.


Purpose: Medical schools worldwide have developed rural primary care immersive experiences to nurture students' interest in future rural careers and address workforce shortages. Few studies have looked at the students who participate in these programs. This study explores personality traits in US and Australian students who undertake rural-focused medical training.

Methods: A cross-sectional cohort design used the Temperament and Character Inventory to identify levels of the 7 basic dimensions of personality. Data were collected in successive cohorts over 2007-2011. Multivariate analysis compared trait levels between groups and by demographic variables.

Findings: The majority of the 302 students (US-167; Australia-135) were female, aged 20-29 years and single. A greater proportion of US students reported being partnered, living longest in a small rural/remote community and having a rural background. Significant differences between groups were detected in several traits but effect sizes were small. The personality pattern of the combined sample indicates students with a mature and stable personality high in Self-Directedness, Persistence, and Cooperativeness. Rural background and marital status enhanced this pattern.

Conclusions: Despite coming from different educational and societal backgrounds, similar personality patterns are evident in US and Australian students who pursue rural medical education. Data provide support for a pattern of traits associated with a rural background and its predictive influence on interest in rural practice. Considering the international expansion of rural longitudinal integrated clerkships, understanding student attributes may assist in identifying strategies to enhance the rural workforce that are relevant across cultures and continents.

Keywords: longitudinal integrated clerkships; medical students; personality; rural primary care; rural-focused curriculum.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Australia
  • Clinical Clerkship*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Personality Inventory
  • Personality*
  • Primary Health Care
  • Rural Health Services*
  • Students, Medical*
  • United States
  • Young Adult