Objectives: To determine whether recruitment of rural students and uptake of extended rural placements are associated with students’ expressed intentions to undertake rural internships and students’ acceptance of rural internships after finishing medical school, and to compare any associations.
Design, setting and participants: Longitudinal study of three successive cohorts (commencing 2005, 2006, 2007) of medical students in the Sydney Medical Program (SMP), University of Sydney, New South Wales, using responses to self-administered questionnaires upon entry to and exit from the Sydney Medical School and data recorded in rolls.
Main outcome measures: Students’ expressed intentions to undertake rural internships, and their acceptance of rural internships after finishing medical school.
Results: Data from 448 students were included. The proportion of students preferring a rural career dropped from 20.7% (79/382) to 12.5% (54/433) between entry into and exit from the SMP. A total of 98 students took extended rural placements. Ultimately, 8.1% (35/434) accepted a rural internship, although 14.5% (60/415) had indicated a first preference for a rural post. Students who had undertaken an extended rural placement were more than three times as likely as those with rural backgrounds to express a first preference for a rural internship (23.9% v 7.7%; χ2 = 7.04; P = 0.008) and more than twice as likely to accept a rural internship (21.3% v 9.9%; χ2 = 3.85; P = 0.05).
Conclusion: For the three cohorts studied, rural clinical training through extended placements in rural clinical schools had a stronger association than rural background with a preference for, and acceptance of, rural internship.
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