Junior doctors in rural Australia are more likely to be satisfied with their jobs than heir metropolitan counterparts, with better work-life balance and more varied work the main positives, new research has shown.
The research - published in the Australian Journal of Rural Health - is one of the largest studies ever on junior doctor satisfaction, and the first national one. It sheds light on how recruitment strategies may bring more junior doctors to rural areas.
Dr Matthew Lennon, a junior doctor in Wagga and the lead author of the UNSW study, said the findings were important, given the ongoing shortage of doctors in rural and remote areas.
"Junior doctors are in a critical period where they are deciding on a route of specialty training and forming lifelong relationships - so knowing what they're happy and unhappy about at that stage in their career could help inform recruitment strategies," Dr Lennon said.
Using the Medicine in Australia: Balancing Life and Employment survey, the researchers examined 4581 doctors in their first four years after graduation.
"Overall work satisfaction was high for both metropolitan and rural junior doctors - sitting at about 85 per cent - but once we controlled for other factors, we found that rural doctors were 54 per cent more likely to be satisfied," Dr Lennon said.
I was thinking about where it would be good to train as a junior doctor and I thought Wagga was definitely the place to be.Matthew Lennon, junior doctor at Wagga Base Hospital
"Compared to their metropolitan counterparts, rural doctors were more positive about their work-life balance, the amount of variety in their work, access to leave and leisure activities, and personal study time.
"An important part of this we think is that in smaller hospitals, junior doctors often work directly with supervising consultants and get the opportunity to perform tasks under supervision which are often reserved for specialist trainees at other hospitals."
Dr Lennon grew up near Sydney and spent a year in Wagga at the UNSW Rural Clinical School.
"The opportunity you got here were just another world away from what you got in a metropolitan area," he said.
"I was thinking about where it would be good to train as a junior doctor and I thought Wagga was definitely the place to be."
Dr Lennon, 25, and his wife Gabrielle have a baby daughter, Florence, and felt Wagga was a great place to raise a family.
The current Wagga Young Citizen of the Year hopes to specialise in neurology and to set up a practice in a rural area.
"I think that many doctors and medical students aren't aware of great options of working in rural areas, so to attract early career doctors we should emphasize the benefits of rural work," Dr Lennon said.