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Original Research

Who attracts whom to rural general practice? Variation in temperament and character profiles of GP registrars across different vocational training pathways

Submitted: 29 December 2014
Revised: 10 August 2015
Accepted: 8 September 2015
Published: 17 November 2015

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Author(s) : Eley DS, Laurence C, Cloninger CR, Walters L.

Diann EleyCaroline LaurenceLucie Walters

Citation: Eley DS, Laurence C, Cloninger CR, Walters L.  Who attracts whom to rural general practice? Variation in temperament and character profiles of GP registrars across different vocational training pathways. Rural and Remote Health (Internet) 2015; 15: 3426. Available: (Accessed 17 October 2017)


Introduction:  The ongoing rural doctor workforce shortage continues to stimulate interest in new strategies to alleviate the situation. Alongside increasingly promising approaches is the notion that attracting and nurturing the ‘right’ individuals may be paramount to achieving long-term success in recruitment and retention. This study compares the patterns of demographic and temperament and character trait profiles of general practice registrars in training across three Australian vocational training pathways: the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine independent rural pathway, and the rural and general pathways of Australian general practice training. The aim is to describe the predominant personalities of existing trainees. At its foundation, this study strives to obtain more information about those individuals choosing rural practice, which may inform ways to enhance future recruitment and training into rural medicine. This rationale has been explored with medical students using intention as the dependent variable, but registrars are that much closer to their final career choice, and therefore may provide more practical and reliable indicators of the notion of who attracts whom into rural practice.
Methods:  A cross-sectional design sampled four registrar training groups: one from the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine, one Australian general practice training rural only, and two Australian general practice training rural and general pathway regional training providers. Registrars (451) completed a questionnaire that gathered basic demographics and a personality trait profile using the Temperament and Character Inventory plus a measure of resilience. Statistical analysis explored the relationships between variables (multivariate analyses of variance) and compared levels of traits between registrar groups (analyses of variance).
Results:  Registrars training via the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine pathway were more likely to be male, older, have a definite interest in or already practising in a rural area and were significantly (with moderate effect sizes) lower in levels of harm avoidance and higher in persistence, self-directedness and resilience compared to the other training pathways.
Conclusions:  The implications of the data to the recruitment and training of general practice registrars goes further than identifying groups of individuals with similar temperament and character trait patterns. This sample is portrayed as relatively homogenous in light of their overall trait levels as compared to population norms. However, it is the combination of the levels of individual traits that suggests a profile that differs between registrars on a rural or general training path. Importantly the combination of trait levels that tend to differentiate registrars (low harm avoidance, high self-directedness and persistence) correlates strongly with high levels of resilience. Doctors and medical students benefit from a high level of resilience to cope with and manage the challenges of the profession and arguably more so in rural practice. Along with certain demographic characteristics, the combination and levels of temperament (stable) and character (developmental) traits support the notion of a mixture of personal traits that may be indicative of individuals best suited to rural and remote medicine. Further investigation is needed to determine whether individuals with a certain pattern of personal traits are attracted to rural practice training or whether the training itself, in part by exposure to rural life and rural medical practice, selects for those who are most suited to and will eventually choose to practice in a rural location.

Key words: Australia, GP registrars, personality, recruitment, rural general practice, vocational training.

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