Residents of rural and remote Australia have poorer health outcomes than their metropolitan counterparts. A major contributor to these health disparities is chronic and severe health workforce shortages outside of metropolitan areas—a global phenomenon. Despite emerging recognition of the important influence of place-based social processes on retention, much of the political attention and research is directed elsewhere. A structured scoping review was undertaken to describe the range of research addressing the influence of place-based social processes on turnover or retention of rural health professionals, to identify current gaps in the literature, and to formulate a guide for future rural health workforce retention research. A systematic search of the literature was performed. In total, 21 articles were included, and a thematic analysis was undertaken. The themes identified were (1) rural familiarity and/or interest, (2) social connection and place integration, (3) community participation and satisfaction, and (4) fulfillment of life aspirations. Findings suggest place-based social processes affect and influence the retention of rural health workforces. However, these processes are not well understood. Thus, research is urgently needed to build robust understandings of the social determinants of rural workforce retention. It is contended that future research needs to identify which place-based social processes are amenable to change.
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