BACKGROUND: Australian Rural Clinical School (RCS) programmes have been designed to create experiences that positively influence graduates to choose rural medical careers. Rural career intent is a categorical evaluation measure and has been used to assess the Australian RCS model. Predictors for rural medical career intent have been associated with extrinsic values such as students with a rural background. Intrinsic values such as personal interest have not been assessed with respect to rural career intent. In psychology, a predictor of the motivation or emotion for a specific career or career location is the level of interest. Our primary aims are to model over one year of Australian RCS training, change in self-reported interest for future rural career intent. Secondary aims are to model student factors associated with rural career intent while attending an RCS.
METHODS: The study participants were medical students enrolled in a RCS in the year 2013 at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) and who completed the newly developed self-administered UNSW Undergraduate Destinations Study (UDS) questionnaire. Data were collected at baseline and after one year of RCS training on preferred location for internship, work and intended specialty. Interest for graduate practice location (career intent) was assessed on a five-variable Likert scale at both baseline and at follow-up. A total of 165 students completed the UDS at baseline and 150 students after 1 year of follow-up.
RESULTS: Factors associated with intent to practise in a rural location were rural background (χ2 = 28.4, P < 0.001), two or more previous years at an RCS (χ2 = 9.0, P = 0.003), and preference for a rural internship (χ2 = 17.8, P < 0.001). At follow-up, 41% of participants who originally intended to work in a metropolitan location at baseline changed their preference and indicated a preference for a rural location. The level of interest in intended practice location was significantly higher for those intending to work in a rural area than those with intention to work in a metropolitan (urban area) location (t = -3.1, P = 0.002). Initial rural career location intention was associated with increased interest levels after 1 year of follow-up (paired t = -2.3, P = 0.02).
CONCLUSION: When evaluating the success of RCS outcomes with respect to rural workforce destination, both rural practice intentions and level of interest are key factors related to projected career destination. RCS experience can positively influence practice intent (toward rural practice) and interest levels (toward greater interest in rural practice).