Three years is the cut off point at which GPs in rural areas are highly likely to move back to the city.
Researchers found doctors who worked in their country practice for less than three years tended to shift to metropolitan areas.
But if they last past that point they tend to stay in the bush, according to research published in the Medical Journal of Australia.
Dr Matthew McGrail and Professor John Humphreys from Monash University used data from the Medicine in Australia: Balancing Employment and Life (MABEL) survey, Australia’s national longitudinal survey of doctors.
“Understanding GP mobility is important because of its impact on work force availability – both in the origin area (place from which the doctor moved) and the destination area,” they write.
“Considerable investment is made by governments into health programs specifically oriented towards improving the recruitment and retention of doctors in rural areas, with the goal of maximising movement into and minimising movement away from rural areas.”
The researchers found that GPs in small rural towns with population less than 5000 and remote areas had higher mobility rates.
GPs most at risk of moving, both from and to rural areas, are those who have only been in their current location for up to three years.
Younger GPs, those under 40 years, and those working as either salaried or contract employees are also more likely to move.
“This study helps to understand who is most likely to move each year, how often moves occur and where they might move to and from,” the researchers say.
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