Ensuring nationwide access to medical care challenges health systems worldwide. Rural exposure during undergraduate medical training is promising as a means for overcoming the shortage of physicians outside urban areas, but the effectiveness is widely unknown. This integrative review assesses the effects of rural placements during undergraduate medical training on graduates’ likelihood to take up rural practice. Methods:
The paper presents the results of a longitudinal review of the literature published in PubMed, Embase, Google Scholar and elsewhere on the measurable effects of rural placements and internships during medical training on the number of graduates in rural practice. Results:
The combined database and hand search identified 38 suitable primary studies with rather heterogeneous interventions, endpoints and results, mostly cross-sectional and control studies. The analysis of the existing evidence exhibited predominantly positive but rather weak correlations between rural placements during undergraduate medical training and later rural practice. Beyond the initial scope, the review underpinned rural upbringing to be the strongest predictor for rural practice. Conclusions:
This review confirms that rural exposure during undergraduate medical training to contributes to recruitment and retention in nonurban settings. It can play a role within a broader strategy for overcoming the shortage of rural practitioners. Rural placements during medical education turned out to be particularly effective for rural-entry students. Given the increasing funding being directed towards medical schools to produce graduates that will work rurally, more robust high-quality research is needed.
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