Preparing for Rural

The Rural Health Research & Policy Centers recently published, Outcomes of Rural-Centric Residency Training to Prepare Family Medicine Physicians for Rural Practice.  This policy brief identified family medicine residencies providing rural training and the practice locations of their graduates.

KEY FINDINGS

  • Family medicine physicians who graduated from rural-centric residency programs—those that actively recruit medical students with an interest in rural practice and require at least eight weeks of rural training—practiced in rural areas during the first five years after graduation at much higher rates than the entire population of family physicians.
  • No single program characteristic or model offered sustained advantages over any other type in producing high yields to rural practice.
  • Graduates of rural-centric family medicine residencies also chose to practice in Primary Care Health Professional Shortage Areas (both rural and urban) at high rates, up to 54% three years post-graduation, declining by five years post-graduation to 42%.
  • The combination of a program mission to produce rural physicians with required rural training experiences may help to account for similar outcomes among a diverse group of residency programs that produce family physicians who choose rural practice.
  • More research is needed to determine whether rural practice choices are sustained beyond five years post-graduation, the time period of this study.

The last point is of particular interest as the paper notes:

It is not known the extent to which these high rates of practice in shortage areas are the result of incentive programs, such as the National Health Service Corps, or Conrad 30 Waiver Program, or other factors. If incentives are driving this trend, we do not know whether these physicians will remain in shortage areas once incentive obligations are fulfilled, since incentive programs typically involve two to six years of service in underserved locations.

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