Background: Switzerland lacks future general practitioners (GPs). Residents who wished to specialize as general practitioners were formerly trained solely in hospital settings. To better prepare and also attract more young doctors to become GPs, the canton of Bern (equivalent to a state) has implemented a partly state-funded vocational training program in GP practices. Our study examines the efficacy of this 10-year program, identifies factors that positively influence residents in their decision to become a GP and the distribution of new GPs in the canton of Bern, who had taken part in the traineeship.
Methods: This cross-sectional survey among all residents, who participated in a traineeship in general practice from 2008 to 2017 in the canton of Bern asked if residents had taken a subsequent career choice as a GP and if so in which region. Residents scored the importance of their traineeship and their mentor's influence on becoming a GP. By using zip codes of work area of respondents already working as GPs and matching it with population census data, we could obtain the distribution of GPs on a per capita basis.
Results: Out of 165 residents who participated in a traineeship, 151 (92%) completed our survey. 81% had chosen a career as a GP or were on track to become a GP. Almost half of the participants became GPs in the offices of their mentors or in the area. Our respondents emphasized the importance of their mentors' influence as well as the training program in their decision-making to become a GP. Most mentioned benefits of being a GP were broad field of medical care (37%) and a fulfilling doctor-patient relationship (34%). We could show an increase in GP practices in the canton of Bern, not only in urban but also accordingly in rural areas.
Conclusions: Most residents continued subsequent careers as general practitioners after having completed a GP traineeship, with almost half of them in the region of their training. A vocational training program helped motivating young doctors to become GPs and underserved regions of the canton of Bern to gain new GPs.