DOI: 10.1111/ajr.13069 ISSN: 1038-5282

Factors influencing nursing and allied health recent graduates' rural versus urban preferred principal place of practice: A cross‐sectional data linkage study

Karin Fisher, Julie Depczynski, Eleanor Mitchell, Anthony Smith
  • Family Practice
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health



Disparities between metropolitan and non‐metropolitan health workforce must be addressed to reduce inequities in health care access. Understanding factors affecting early career practitioners' choice of practice location can inform workforce planning.


To investigate influences on rural practice location preferences of recent graduates.


Cross‐sectional analysis linked university enrolment, Graduate Outcomes Survey (GOS) and Australian Health Professional Regulation Agency (Ahpra) principal place of practice (PPP) for 2018 and 2019 nursing and allied health graduates from two Australian universities. Chi‐squared tests and logistic regression compared rural versus urban PPP and locational preference.


Of 2979 graduates, 1295 (43.5%) completed the GOS, with 63.7% (n = 825) working in their profession and 84.0% of those (n = 693) in their preferred location. Ahpra PPP data were extracted for 669 (81.1%) of those working in their profession. Most reported influences were ‘proximity to family/friends’ (48.5%), ‘lifestyle of the area’ (41.7%) and ‘opportunity for career advancement’ (40.7%). Factors most influential for rural PPP were ‘cost of accommodation/housing’ (OR = 2.26, 95% CI = 1.23–4.17) and ‘being approached by an employer’ (OR = 2.10, 95% CI = 1.12–3.92). Having an urban PPP was most influenced by ‘spouse/partners employment/career’ (OR = 0.53, 95% CI = 0.30–0.93) and ‘proximity to family/friends’ (OR = 0.41, 95% CI = 0.24–0.72).


While the findings add strength to the understanding that graduates who originated from a rural area are most likely to take up rural practice in their preferred location, varied social and professional factors are influential on decision‐making.


It is imperative to recruit students from non‐metropolitan regions into health professional degrees, as well as addressing other influences on choice of practice location.

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