Abstract

Background: The impact of new medical graduates on the social dimensions of the rural medical workforce is yet to be examined. Social Network Analysis (SNA) is able to visualize and measure these dimensions. We apply this method to examine the workforce characteristics of graduates from a representative Australian Rural Clinical School.

Methods: Participants were medical graduates of the Rural Clinical School of Western Australia (RCSWA) from the 2001–2014 cohorts, identified as being in rural work in 2017 by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency. SNA was used to examine the relationships between site of origin and of work destination. Data were entered into UCInet 6 as tied pairs, and visualized using Netdraw. UCINet statistics relating to node centrality were obtained from the node editor.

Results: SNA measures showed that the 124 of 709 graduates in rural practice were distributed around Australia, and that their practice was strongly focused on the North, with a clear centre in the remote Western Australian town of Broome. Women were strongly recruited, and were widely distributed.

Conclusions: RCSWA appears to be a “weak tie” according to SNA theory: the School attracts graduates to rural nodes where they had only passing prior contact. The multiple activities that comprise the social capital of the most attractive, remote, node demonstrate the clear workforce effects of being a “bridge, broker and boundary spanner” in SNA terms, and add new understanding about recruiting to the rural workforce.

Keywords

rural clinical school, rural, medical, workforce, social network analysis, recruitment

Link to Publisher Version (URL)

https://doi.org/10.1186/s12913-019-4132-z

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