Introduction: The regionally-based James Cook University (JCU) School of Medicine aims to meet its mission to address the health needs of the region by combining selection and curriculum strategies shown to increase rural career recruitment outcomes. The School has graduated 536 students in its first seven cohorts from 2005 to 2011. This paper presents the early career practice locations and the specialty training undertaken by these cohorts, and describes the association between later practice location with both hometown at application and internship location.
Methods: ‘Hometown at application’ data for JCU Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) graduates was retrieved from administrative databases held by the university, while postgraduate location and career data were obtained either from personal contact via email, telephone, Facebook or electronically from the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Authority website. Practice location was described across Australian Standard Geographical Classification Remoteness Area (RA) categories.
Results: Data for the primary practice location of 536 JCU MBBS graduates across postgraduate years (PGY) 1 to 7 is 99% complete. A total of 65% of JCU graduates undertook their internship in non-metropolitan locations including 20% in RA 2 and 44% in RA 3–5, a pattern of practice different to that of other Australian clinicians. For the internship year, ‘non-metropolitan-origin’ JCU MBBS graduates predominantly worked in RA 2–5 locations, while ‘metropolitan origin’ graduates were more likely to work in major cities. However, by PGY 7, the distribution of ‘rural’ and ‘metropolitan’ origin JCU graduates across RA categories was similar. The RA category of internship location – either ‘metropolitan (RA 1) or ‘non-metropolitan’ (RA 2–5) – was associated with the location of subsequent practice across PGY 2–7.
Conclusions: This comprehensive data set provides the first real evidence from one of Australia’s new medical schools on actual postgraduate practice location, as compared to ‘intent to practice’. The geographic profile by RA of JCU graduates’ hometown and patterns of postgraduate practice is different to that of other Australian medical students and doctors. This early evidence supports the JCU model of distributed non-metropolitan medical education, and suggests more regionally-located internship and specialty training places would further increase the medical workforce in northern and/or rural Australia. The workforce impact of the seven cohorts of graduates in this study is starting to be felt in rural and regional Australia, and, if these trends continue, will result in significant workforce improvements over the next decade. These results support further investment in regional and rural medical education.
Key words: graduate, medical, practice location, regional, workforce.