Why Medical Students Choose Rural Clinical Campuses For Training: A Report From Two Campuses At Opposite Ends Of The Commonwealth
Rural Medical Education, Rural Clinical Campus, Campus Choice
Although US medical schools have increased their enrollment by about 30%, most of the increase has occurred in urban areas. The affinity model proposes that rural training of a rural student will more likely result in a rural physician, but the exact role of these rural campuses is unclear. Do they solidify and reinforce a pre-existing career plan, do they create social and marital ties that make the transition to rural medicine easier, or could they be replaced with a briefer and more efficient rural rotation? We administered a questionnaire to students attending two different two year rural clinical campuses in the same state in order to explore their opinions regarding the advantages of a rural campus.
Two different rural M3-M4 year clinical campuses, affiliated with different medical schools in the same state, administered surveys to 70 medical students across all four years of medical school. Both schools selectively recruit rural students to the rural campuses, and require a campus decision at admission. Both schools require students to attend their first two years at an urban campus, and transfer to the rural campus for clinical education. Questions addressed student opinions on rural campus location, recommendations from others regarding attendance, campus atmosphere and social life, teaching methods and involvement in patient care. Comparisons were analyzed using the non-parametric Mann Whitney U test.
The top five reasons students chose a rural campus included three aspects of rural training and two features of being rural. There were small differences between the two campuses regarding the importance of more procedures during training and more outdoor activities, the opportunity to study with friends, and strength of local leadership, reflecting differences in the practice setting and the environment of the two campuses. Differences were also noted between upper-level and lower-level students regarding the importance of studying with friends, and the chances of meeting a future spouse. Finally, very rural students (30 miles from urban area) were less concerned with availability of scholarships, and lack of fine dining, but viewed the opportunity to study with friends more favorably.
This study adds to the published literature by surveying students at multiple rural campuses by year of training. There were many more similarities than differences, but there were differences between the two campuses, and there were also differences as the students progressed in their training, and differences between very rural students and other students attending the campus. Rural campuses provide both clinical and social support for students contemplating rural practice. Results of the survey indicate both are of importance to the students as well, with quality of training the most important factor.