Objective To determine the association between rural undergraduate training, rural postgraduate training and medical school entry criteria favouring rural students, on likelihood of working in rural Australian general practice.
Methods National case–control study of 2414 rural and urban general practitioners (GPs) sampled from the Health Insurance Commission database. Participants completed a questionnaire providing information on demographics, current practice location and rural undergraduate and postgraduate experience.
Results Rural GPs were more likely to report having had any rural undergraduate training [odds ratio (OR) 1·61, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1·32–1·95] than were urban GPs. Rural GPs were much more likely to report having had rural postgraduate training (OR 3·14, 95% CI 2·57–3·83). As the duration of rural postgraduate training increased so did the likelihood of working as a rural GP: those reporting that more than half their postgraduate training was rural were most likely to be rural GPs (OR 10·52, 95% CI 5·39–20·51). South Australians whose final high school year was rural were more likely to be rural GPs (OR 3·18, 95% CI 0·99–10·22).
Conclusions Undergraduate rural training, postgraduate training and medical school entry criteria favouring rural students, all are associated with an increased likelihood of being a rural GP. Longer rural postgraduate training is more strongly associated with rural practice. These findings argue for continuation of rural undergraduate training opportunities and rural entry schemes, and an expansion in postgraduate training opportunities for GPs.