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Keywords:

  • psychological well-being;
  • quality of life;
  • rural distress;
  • rural general practitioner;
  • stress

Abstract

Objective: This study aimed to evaluate the impact of the dr doc program, a rural doctor workforce support program, which consists of social and psychological support and practical interventions, on the well-being and retention of rural GPs.

Design: Rural GPs were assessed on different aspects of well-being and their intentions to leave rural general practice, and these were compared with similar data collected two years prior.

Setting: Rural general practices in South Australia.

Participants: Two hundred and twenty-one rural GPs (55% of South Australian rural GP workforce).

Main outcome measures: GPs completed a questionnaire assessing their levels of support, intention to leave rural practice, use of the dr doc program, and psychological health.

Results: Improvements were found in the support networks and in the physical and emotional health of rural GPs from time 1 to time 2. There was also a reduction in the number of GPs wanting to leave rural general practice in the short to medium term (from 30% to 25%).

Conclusions: The initial study in this series suggested that improving psychological well-being might influence rural GPs’ intentions to leave rural practice. The current study confirms these suggestions by demonstrating that programs targeted at psychological and physical well-being do indeed impact on rural GPs’ intentions to leave. The results of this study highlight the role of psychological well-being in retaining rural GPs and emphasise the value of developing psychologically based programs to not only boost the physical and mental health of GPs, but also to reduce departure from rural areas.