The rise of rural generalism

2 minute read

There’s been an 'encouraging’ rise in interest in rural generalism, but the government hasn’t caught on, says the ACRRM president.

General practice is the preferred future specialty for medical students, as long as rural generalism is included, a new survey finds. 

According to data from Medical Deans Australia and New Zealand, released yesterday, general practice was the first preference of specialty for around 10.5% of medical students in 2023, a decline of around 2.5 percentage points compared to the previous year. 

But the drop was made up for and then some by the rise in popularity of rural generalism, which was added as a sub-specialty of general practice in the survey in 2021. 

It’s set to become a fully fledged specialty within the next year.  

In 2021, rural generalism was listed as the first preference for 4.6% of students, rising steadily to 5.8% in 2022 and 7% in 2023 – making it the sixth highest choice of future specialisation for medical students. 

In combination, general practice and rural generalism were the first pick for a total of 373 students (18%) in the 2023 cohort, beating adult medicine/internal medicine/physician by one percentage point. 

Speaking to The Medical Republic, ACRRM president Dr Daniel Halliday said the interest in rural generalism was “encouraging”. 

“It’s the reason why we’re pushing ahead with our interactions with the government to ensure that there’s appropriate funding for the future.” 

Dr Halliday said that it was disappointing that last night’s federal budget did not reflect the value of rural generalism. 

“It’s unfortunate that the initiatives announced in the budget don’t capture the direction of medical students and trainees to look at rural generalist medicine as a desirable specialty within the medical disciplines. 

“It’s a missed opportunity to build on the identification of rural generalist medicine as an area of work which is interesting and rewarding.” 

According to the report, students’ choice of preferred area of medicine was most affected by personal values, followed by typical work culture or atmosphere and then experience of the specialty as a medical student.  

Interestingly, domestic students (7.9%) were far more likely to preference rural generalism than their international peers (0.4%). 

Domestic students were also more likely to want a career outside of a metropolitan area (32.4%) than international students (23.4%). 

Almost two thirds of students with a rural background, wanted a career working outside of metropolitan areas, compared to 20% of non-rural respondents. 

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