Experiences of working as early career allied health professionals and doctors in rural and remote environments: a qualitative systematic review

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Background: Maintaining a health professional workforce in rural and remote areas poses a significant challenge internationally. A range of recruitment and retention strategies have had varying success and these are generally developed from the collective experience of all health professions, rather than targeted to professional groups with differing educational and support contexts. This review explores, compares and synthesises the evidence examining the experience of early career rural and remote allied health professionals and doctors to better understand both the profession specific, and common factors that influence their experience. 

Methods: Qualitative studies that include early career allied health professionals’ or doctors’ experiences of working in rural or remote areas and the personal and professional factors that impact on this experience were considered. A systematic search was completed across five databases and three grey literature repositories to identify published and unpublished studies. Studies published since 2000 in English were considered. Studies were screened for inclusion and critically appraised by two independent reviewers. Data was extracted and assigned a level of credibility. Data synthesis adhered to the JBI meta-aggregative approach. 

Results: Of the 1408 identified articles, 30 papers were eligible for inclusion, with one rated as low in quality and all others moderate or high quality. A total of 23 categories, 334 findings and illustrations were aggregated into three synthesised findings for both professional groups including: making a difference through professional and organisational factors, working in rural areas can offer unique and rewarding opportunities for early career allied health professionals and doctors, and personal and community influences make a difference. A rich dataset was obtained and findings illustrate similarities including the need to consider personal factors, and differences, including discipline specific supervision for allied health professionals and local supervision for doctors.

Conclusions: Strategies to enhance the experience of both allied health professionals and doctors in rural and remote areas include enabling career paths through structured training programs, hands on learning opportunities, quality supervision and community immersion. 

Original languageEnglish
Article number951
Number of pages20
JournalBMC Health Services Research
Publication statusPublished - 26 Jul 2022


  • Allied health
  • Early career
  • Meta-synthesis
  • Medicine
  • Rural and remote
  • Systematic review
  • Qualitative
  • Experiences


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