INTRODUCTION: Recruitment and retention of doctors to rural and remote areas is a well-known problem to which very few countries are immune. Planning effective interventions to enable appropriate recruitment to rural areas requires an understanding of the specificities of each country and region, understanding 'what works' and 'why' in each specific context and then consideration of what that might mean in the context of neighbouring countries. In order to inform local policy makers and stakeholders, this study aimed to investigate 'how and why students elect to study in Wales, UK' and, more importantly, 'what influences students' choices about either staying, or leaving Wales, after graduation'. 'Our hinterland', in the title of this article, refers to the more rural parts of the country.
METHODS: Two cohorts of medical graduates at different stages of their training (one cohort approaching the first year and the other approaching the third year of postgraduate training) were recruited as participants. A mixed-method, sequential study was conducted by means of an online questionnaire (phase 1) followed up by semi-structured telephone interviews (phase 2). Phase 1 results informed the interview schedule for phase 2. A thematic analysis of the interview transcripts was conducted using QSR NVivo v10.
RESULTS: The results show that students elect to study in Wales (Swansea in this case) for a variety of reasons that include liking key features of the course, the attractive location and being able to pursue and maintain ties with family and others. Despite some identified challenges for long-term career prospects, early exposure to clinical placements in rural areas seems to be regarded as a rich, enjoyable learning opportunity that can constitute valuable preparation for future practice as a doctor. Participants also revealed how their choices were made as a result of balancing career aspirations, perceived opportunities and personal factors or circumstances. All seem to be determinants for medical career decision-making and reveal the complexities underlying these life choices.
CONCLUSIONS: Despite the many positive aspects of studying in Wales and of having placements in rural areas emphasised by study participants, the prospect of entering postgraduate training in those regions is, for some, inhibited by feelings of social isolation and lack of opportunities. Some students still perceive rural locations as a backward step in the natural progression of their work and career. Graduates are concerned about discontinuity with family ties (for example stemming from the unpredictability of job allocation) and tend to gravitate to where family members, including life partners, reside. In line with international concerns and local efforts about these issues, the Swansea Graduate Entry Programme in Medicine will continue to monitor students' opinions and attitudes towards career pathways and training locations to maximise the likelihood of high-quality healthcare provision to rural communities.
|Number of pages||12|
|Journal||Rural and Remote Health|
|Publication status||Published - 1 Jul 2015|