‘The word that comes to mind is polymath’: medical students’ perceptions of rural postgraduate careers

Part of Special Series: WONCA World Rural Health Conference Abstracts 2022go to url

See as a full article: 'The word that comes to mind is polymath': medical students' perceptions of rural postgraduate careersgo to url


name here
Lauren Charter
1 MSc, Research Assistant *

name here
Anita Laidlaw
2 PhD, Senior Lecturer ORCID logo

name here
Robert Scully
3 ScotGEM Lead Generalist Clinical Mentor


*Ms Lauren Charter


1, 2, 3 University of St Andrews, St Andrews, UK


10 January 2023 Volume 23 Issue 1


RECEIVED: 20 September 2022

ACCEPTED: 20 September 2022


Charter L, Laidlaw A, Scully R.  ‘The word that comes to mind is polymath’: medical students’ perceptions of rural postgraduate careers. Rural and Remote Health 2023; 23: 8096. https://doi.org/10.22605/RRH8096


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Licence

go to urlCited by

no pdf available, use your browser's print function to create one


Introduction: Medical education is essential in strengthening the rural medical workforce globally. Immersive medical education in rural communities guided by good role models and rural-specific curricula promotes rural recruitment of recent graduates. While curricula can be rurally oriented, the mechanism of action is unclear. Comparing different programmes, this study examined medical students’ perceptions of rural and remote practice and how these perceptions influence students’ intentions to practice rurally.

Methods: The University of St Andrews has two medical programmes: BSc Medicine and graduate-entry MBChB (ScotGEM). Commissioned to address Scotland’s rural generalist crisis, ScotGEM employs high quality role modelling, alongside 40-week immersive rural longitudinal integrated clerkships. This cross-sectional study utilised semi-structured interviews with 10 St Andrews students enrolled in undergraduate or graduate-entry medical programmes. We deductively applied Feldman and Ng’s 'Careers: Embeddedness, Mobility, and Success' theoretical framework to examine rural medicine perceptions in medical students exposed to different programmes.

Results: Structural themes included geographically isolated physicians and patients. Organisational themes included limited staff support in rural practices and perceived inequitable resource allocation between rural and urban communities. Occupational themes included the recognition of rural clinical generalists. Personal themes included the perception of tight-knit rural communities. Medical students’ experiences (educational, personal, or working) most profoundly shaped their perceptions.

Discussion: Medical students’ perceptions align with professionals’ reasons for career embeddedness. Perceptions unique to rurally interested medical students included isolation, the need for rural clinical generalists, uncertainty in rural medicine, and tight-knit rural communities. Educational experience mechanisms, including exposure to telemedicine, GP role-modelling, methods on overcoming uncertainty, and codesigned medical education programmes, explain perceptions.

You might also be interested in:

2009 - Personal characteristics and experiences of long-term allied health professionals in rural and northern British Columbia

2008 - Malaria and pond-based rainwater harvesting linkages in the fringes of central highland Ethiopia

2007 - Malaria control among children under five in sub-Saharan Africa: the role of empowerment and parents' participation besides the clinical strategies

This PDF has been produced for your convenience. Always refer to the live site https://www.rrh.org.au/journal/article/8096 for the Version of Record.