Regional towns must work to retain doctors past three years

A REGIONAL town has three years to impress its newly arrived doctors before they decide to move on according to a Medical Journal of Australia article.

Monash University researchers Matthew McGrail and John Humphreys analysed annual data to find out the mobility of rural doctors from 2008 and 2012.

"GPs most at risk of moving are those who have only been in their current location for up to three years," the authors wrote.

"Once a GP has been settled in either a rural or metropolitan location for at least three years they are less likely to move."

They also found those under 40 were more likely to move on from rural areas.

NSW Rural Doctors Association vice president Emma Cunningham said the consequences of doctor transience were the effect of workforce planning and sustainability.

Dr Cunningham said work-life balance and access to services like schooling contributed to doctors moving on.

"Towns need to work not just on attracting GPs to their area, but on retaining them, particularly over

the course of the initial three years," Dr Cunningham said.

"This may include offering more opportunities for younger GPs to settle into and to become a part of a community or providing social supports outside of the workplace."

"Retention can also be improved by attracting not a sole GP to fill a gap, but two or three."

She said having more doctors in an area would create a social circle within the community, minimise professional isolation and lessen on-call work loads.

Dr McGrail and Prof Humphreys found no association between sex and family status and mobility.

"This study helps to understand who is most likely to move each year, how often moves occur and where they might move to and from," they wrote.

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