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rural and suburban GP Australia
Comparing rural and suburban GP roles in Australia

The differences between rural and suburban GP roles in Australia may not look significant from a distance.

But it’s true, there is more money to be made in the bush!

The simple reason is that there is a severe shortage of GPs working in the country.

In 2018, the Australian government established the Stronger Rural Health Strategy designed to employ more than 3000 doctors and 3000 nurses to country Australia over the next decade.

But working as a rural GP comes with great responsibility.

And depending on where in the country you work, you may face significantly more challenges as well as fewer services and entertainment options at your fingertips.

Some love the peace and quiet.

But it’s not for everyone.

Here are the major differences between roles for rural and suburban GPs.

Population and Demographics

Two-thirds of Australia’s population of nearly 26 million people live in its eight capital cities.

That is where you can enjoy working with modern facilities, encountering a diverse group of patients from many different cultures.

That leaves a third or nearly nine million people scattered across almost 7.7 million square kilometres.

There are big cities outside and often not far from the capitals.

Cities like Gold Coast, Newcastle, Sunshine Coast, Wollongong and Geelong all boast more than 200,000 people.

But there are also numerous small towns of fewer than 1000 people.

They are dotted across the land and sometimes lie up to 1000km from the closest major centre.

Living in or simply servicing these towns comes with its own challenges that don’t just include a lack of modern facilities and equipment.

Many have an above average proportion of older Australians and a higher Indigenous population with their own particular needs.

Travel to and from these communities can also be time consuming and may also require utilising the Royal Flying Doctor Service, purposefully designed to care for Australians in remote areas.

Remuneration and Incentives

Working in the country can be challenging, hence there are financial incentives to encourage GPs to make that commitment.

Generally, GPs working in rural areas can expect to earn up to 12 per cent more than their city counterparts.

But some state governments have been known to offer higher salaries or one-off cash payments to help fill dire needs in country areas.

In 2023, the South Australian government offered a rural attraction payment of $50,000 for new GPs beginning practice in the country.

It’s also a good way to save money quickly.

The lower cost of country living, including housing, as well as fewer options to spend on entertainment makes the financial gain even greater.

Scope of practice

The sheer lack of available options and specialist care in rural areas often requires GPs to deliver a much broader range of services.

This could include delivering babies and undertaking other emergency procedures that would normally be performed by specialists in urban settings.

Suburban GPs have the luxury of referring patients to specialists for these services, allowing them to focus on primary care and preventative medicine.

Local infrastructure 

Expect healthcare infrastructure in rural areas to be far more basic than in cities with fewer specialist services and diagnostic capabilities.

Many smaller towns throughout Australia with populations as little as 2000 have local hospitals and healthcare services.

But their capabilities may not always meet the specific health needs of patients, requiring passage to a city hospital.

City doctors will find themselves much better supported by local infrastructure.

Workload and patient access

Another big difference exists here between rural and suburban GPs.

Rural doctors often have a much higher patient-to-doctor ratio than their city counterparts.

They may also be required to travel far and wide to visit these patients in their own homes, or at least their own towns.

It leads to rural doctors working longer hours and often assuming the responsibility of being on call for longer periods of time.

It can be stressful.

While city doctors may have a high volume of patients, they travel much shorter distances, if at all.

They also enjoy more predictable hours often and usually with much more flexibility.

Community engagement

Rural GPs are often expected to play a much more significant role within the communities they service.

The very nature of country life results in “everyone knowing everyone”.

Local GPs should prepare to be one of the most well known people in the district.

They are often the lone healthcare worker in the area.

Hence, they’ll be expected to participate in local community activities, especially ones pertaining to health.

Suburban GPs may still find themselves engaged with some local healthcare activities but tend to be much more anonymous.

Continuing Professional Development (CPD)

CPD is a requirement for all doctors in Australia who must undertake and log a minimum 50 hours of activity per annum.

GPs working in rural areas can find this much more challenging than their city counterparts.

Their geographic remoteness could force them to rely on online courses and local workshops to meet these requirements.

Suburban GPs will find they have many more options at their disposal.

Professional Support Networks

Rural doctors find themselves with only limited support around them.

They rely much more heavily on country doctor support organisations and telehealth services for clinical advice and peer support.

But on many occasions, they will be empowered to make decisions on their own.

Suburban doctors are surrounded by support networks within their own practice as well as medical associations and specialist referral pathways for collaboration and consultation.

Contact Health Recruitment Australia today

It’s difficult to be too far from anywhere in the UK and many other big countries.

Small communities are close to bigger communities which straddle sprawling urban centres across the country.

The point is, in a medical emergency, help is never far away for doctor or patient.

The same does not apply to Australia where you can sit alone in 90 per cent of the country and hear nothing but crickets and the sound of yourself breathing.

It brings an entirely different dynamic to the rural healthcare system in Australia.

There are jobs aplenty on offer.

These jobs come with great responsibility.

But they also offer an incredible way to see Australia.

If you’re interested in working in Australia, where both rural and suburban GPs are in high demand, a call to Health Recruitment Australia is a must.

HRA is a dedicated recruitment agency that specialises in matching overseas doctors of all ages with the right clinics in Australia.

We can talk to you more about the challenges of working in the outback or the comforts of working in the big smoke.

There are multiple opportunities for doctors interested in making the move down under and there is no better time to take advantage of everything Australia has to offer.

If you’re one of the thousands of doctors pondering a move, let HRA make your job easier.

We can help you find you the right city or country area and the ideal practice to work in.

We’ll answer all of your questions, putting your mind at ease to make your move as comfortable and stress-free as possible.

And we’ll even sort out all that annoying paperwork for you.

Why not start with an informal, no-obligation discussion with the experienced team at Health Recruitment Australia? Contact us.

Enquire now, and we’ll be
in touch shortly!


Enquire now, and we’ll be
in touch shortly!