- Medical graduate
- Dental graduate
- Pharmacy graduate
- Medical education
- Supply and distribution
- Attitude of health personnel
- Rural distribution
Inequity in health workforce distribution has been a national concern of the Thai health service for decades. The government has launched various policies to increase the distribution of health workforces to rural areas. However, little is known regarding the attitudes of health workers and the factors influencing their decision to work in rural areas. This study aimed to explore the current attitudes of new medical, dental and pharmacy graduates as well as determine the linkage between their characteristics and the preference for working in rural areas.
A cross-sectional survey was conducted, using self-administered questionnaires, with a total of 1,225 medical, dental and pharmacy graduates. They were participants of the meeting arranged by the Ministry of Public Health (MOPH) on 1–2 April 2012. Descriptive statistics using mean and percentage, and inferential statistics using logistic regression with marginal effects, were applied for data analysis.
There were 754 doctors (44.4%), 203 dentists (42.6%) and 268 pharmacists (83.8%) enrolled in the survey. Graduates from all professions had positive views towards working in rural areas. Approximately 22% of doctors, 31% of dentists and 52% of pharmacists selected ‘close proximity to hometown’ as the most important reason for workplace selection. The multivariable analysis showed a variation in attributes associated with the tendency to work in rural areas across professions. In case of doctors, special track graduates had a 10% higher tendency to prefer rural work than those recruited through the national entrance examination.
The majority of graduates chose to work in community hospitals, and attitudes towards rural work were quite positive. In-depth analysis found that factors influencing their choice varied between professions. Special track recruitment positively influenced the selection of rural workplaces among new doctors attending the MOPH annual meeting for workplace selection. This policy innovation should be applied to dentists and pharmacists as well. However, implementing a single policy without supporting strategies, or failing to consider different characteristics between professions, might not be effective. Future study of attitudes and factors contributing to the selection of, and retention in, rural service of both new graduates and in-service professionals was recommended.