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Training generalist doctors for rural practice in New Zealand

Submitted: 10 June 2016
Accepted: 29 November 2016
Published: 8 March 2017

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Author(s) : Nixon G, Blattner K, Williamson M, McHugh P, Reid J.

Garry NixonKatharina BlattnerMartyn Williamson

Citation: Nixon G, Blattner K, Williamson M, McHugh P, Reid J.  Training generalist doctors for rural practice in New Zealand. Rural and Remote Health (Internet) 2017; 17: 4047. Available: (Accessed 21 October 2017). DOI:


Targeted postgraduate training increases the likelihood young doctors will take up careers in rural generalist medicine. This article describes the postgraduate pathways that have evolved for these doctors in New Zealand. The Cairns consensus statement 2014 defined rural medical generalism as a scope of practice that encompasses primary care, hospital or secondary care, emergency care, advanced skill sets and a population-based approach to the health needs of rural communities. Even as work goes on to define this role different jurisdictions have developed their own training pathways for these important members of the rural healthcare workforce. In 2002 the University of Otago developed a distance-taught postgraduate diploma aimed at the extended practice of rural general practitioners (GPs) and rural hospital medical officers. This qualification has evolved into a 4-year vocational training program in rural hospital medicine, with the university diploma retained as the academic component. The intentionally flexible and modular nature of the rural hospital training program and university diploma allow for a range of training options. The majority of trainees are taking advantage of this by combining general practice and rural hospital training. Although structured quite differently the components of this combined pathway looks similar to the Australian rural generalist pathways. There is evidence that the program has had a positive impact on the New Zealand rural hospital medical workforce.

Key words: generalism, New Zealand, postgraduate, rural hospital, training.

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