INTRODUCTION: In Australia, as in many other countries there is a disparity in the number of dentists working in rural locations compared with metropolitan areas, and this is a growing problem. The aim of the research was to monitor the location of recent graduates who undertook a rural clinical placement whilst in the final year of Sydney Dental School, to determine whether it influenced their choice of job location.
MATERIALS AND METHODS: Students who graduated in 2008 and 2009 were followed up to ascertain their working location. Forty per cent of the 2009 graduates participated in a rural placement during their undergraduate degree and 60% did not. In 2008, none of the students went on a rural placement as the scheme had not been implemented. The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) internet website was used to find the working location of the graduates. The rural, remote and metropolitan areas (RRMA) classification system was used to classify which areas of Australia were metropolitan, regional, rural and remote zones.
RESULTS: The graduates of 2008 and 2009 were followed up in 2011 and 2012 to ascertain their working location. In 2011, 12.7% of the 2008 graduates were employed in a rural location compared to 27.6% of the entire 2009 graduating class. In 2011, of those 2009 graduates who participated in the rural placement programme, 44.8% were working in a rural or remote region compared to 17% of the graduates who did not participate. In 2012, the second follow-up found that 18.6% of the 2008 graduates were working in a rural location compared to 25.9% of all the 2009 graduates. In 2012, 43.3% of the 2009 rural placement participants were found to be working in a rural location compared to 14.9% of the non-participants.
CONCLUSIONS: The study followed up recent dental graduates' working locations to provide longitudinal evidence of the influence of an undergraduate rural placement programme on their work choices. It was found that a higher proportion of graduates who participated in the rural placement programme were working in a rural location when compared with those who had not been offered a placement.
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