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Characteristics of and issues faced by rural female family physicians

Barley, G.E., Reeves, C.B., O'Brien-Gonzales, A., Westfall, J.M.
Journal of rural health 2001 v.17 no.3 pp. 251-258
rural women, physicians, demography, employed women, surveys, rural areas, United States
The purpose of this study was to identify characteristics of and issues faced by female family physicians practicing in rural areas. A 37-item survey was designed to obtain demographic information about the background, community and practice of rural female physicians. An open-ended question regarding the issues and problems faced by female physicians in rural communities was included. Study subjects were identified from the membership of the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP). The questionnaire was mailed to all 850 active female AAFP members practicing in communities with less than 50,000 inhabitants during the winter of 1999. Completed and usable surveys were received from 587 (69.9 percent). The average age of respondents was 45. The majority were married (81.1 percent) and had children (80.1 percent). Half of the women had grown up in communities of 25,000 or less population. Twenty-seven percent of the respondents had no rural exposure in medical school; 39 percent had no rural exposure in residency; and 16 percent had no rural exposure in medical school or residency. The majority of respondents (62 percent) practiced in communities of less than 10,000. A large majority (70 percent) of these women planned to stay in the community for 10 years or more, with 58.6 percent responding that they plan to stay indefinitely. Assumptions regarding rural physicians, especially women, must be updated to accurately assist communities in recruiting rural physicians and to assist medical schools and residencies in adequately preparing graduates for rural practice.