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Original Research

Recruitment and retention of physicians in rural Alberta: the spousal perspective

Submitted: 4 June 2015
Revised: 4 December 2015
Accepted: 4 December 2015
Published: 9 February 2016

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Author(s) : Myroniuk L, Adamiak P, Bajaj S, Myhre DL.

Lana MyroniukPaul AdamiakSameer BajajDouglas Myhre

Citation: Myroniuk L, Adamiak P, Bajaj S, Myhre DL.  Recruitment and retention of physicians in rural Alberta: the spousal perspective. Rural and Remote Health (Internet) 2016; 16: 3620. Available: (Accessed 17 October 2017)


Introduction:  The overall geographic distribution of physicians in Canada, including Alberta, is misaligned with the population distribution. Some strategies, such as debt repayment, are currently in practice to increase recruitment and retention of physicians in rural locations. Of the factors influencing choice of practice location, 'spousal influence' is considered to play a significant role in recruitment and retention of physicians in literature. Most studies have focused on the physicians’ perspective of their spouses’ influence on staying in a rural location. This study is unique as it approaches rural recruitment and retention from the perspective of the physician spouse.
Methods:  The physician population for this study consisted of doctors practicing in rural southern Alberta. Participants were recruited via an email invitation and were invited to complete an online survey. The survey collected information regarding physician demographics and some relationship characteristics. The email invitation also contained a link to a second survey specific to the physician spouse or partner, asking a similar panel of questions. Physicians were asked to request their spouse or partner to complete this survey. Semi-structured interviews were conducted for those who consented to be contacted for interviews.
Results:  Descriptive statistical analysis of the survey data was carried out. Thematic analysis of the qualitative interview data was conducted and was organized into three sections. The first and second sections present the personal experiences of rural recruitment and rural retention. The third section presents recommendations made by physicians and spouses to improve these processes. Specific interview quotes led the authors to derive themes under each section.
Conclusions:  The results of this study raise the voice and profile of the spouse in the process of rural recruitment and retention. In this study, the spouses of Canadian medical graduates were a positive influence in rural recruitment and retention, while the spouses of international medical graduates were generally less supportive of a rural lifestyle. Considerations to accommodate the educational, professional and cultural needs of the physician spouse must be incorporated into policy if large areas of underserved rural communities will continue to rely on international recruitment.

Key words: Canadian medical graduates, community, international medical graduates, proximity, recreational, satisfaction, spousal influence, spouse.

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