Medical graduates are less and less inclined to follow a career in general practice, according to a recent study published in the Medical Journal of Australia.
Dr Catherine Joyce, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine at Monash University and co-author of the study, says places in the general practice vocational training program have not been filled in four of the past six years.
The study compared career choices of four cohorts of medical graduates from Monash University between 1980 and 1995, and found a definite decrease in the number of students who choose to become general practitioners.
"A rapidly declining proportion of new graduates from Monash University Medical School, particularly female graduates, are choosing general practice as a career," says Dr Joyce.
Eight years after graduating, 50 per cent of Monash medical graduates from 1980 and 1985 were working in general practice. But in 1990 that had dropped to 38 per cent and by 1995 to 33 per cent.
Dr Joyce suggests several factors have influenced this decline, including heightened training requirements, compulsory rural placements and a perception that general practice is less prestigious than other specialties.
"Reports of low morale, high workload, heavy administrative burden, and poor job satisfaction among Australian GPs are also likely to have a negative influence on new graduates career choices," she added.
Our findings have implications for the future sustainability of the current Australian health care model, with the central role of the GP.
If present trends continue, the shortage of GPs is less and less likely to be resolved with Australian trainees.
"Efforts must be made to improve the attractiveness of general practice careers."
The Medical Journal of Australia is a publication of the Australian Medical Association.