Rural temperament and character: a new perspective on the recruitment of rural doctors

Eley, Diann, Young, Janet L. and Shrapnel, Marilyn (2008). Rural temperament and character: a new perspective on the recruitment of rural doctors. In: 31st 2008 NRHA Annual Conference. 31st 2008 National Rural Health Association Annual Conference, New Orleans, LA, U.S.A., (10-10). 7-10 May, 2008.

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Author Eley, Diann
Young, Janet L.
Shrapnel, Marilyn
Title of paper Rural temperament and character: a new perspective on the recruitment of rural doctors
Conference name 31st 2008 National Rural Health Association Annual Conference
Conference location New Orleans, LA, U.S.A.
Conference dates 7-10 May, 2008
Proceedings title 31st 2008 NRHA Annual Conference
Publication Year 2008
Sub-type Poster
Start page 10
End page 10
Total pages 1
Language eng
Formatted Abstract/Summary
Rural medicine in Australia is undergoing many changes that threaten not only the integrity of rural practice but its future as well. Workforce shortages, hospital closures and declining services have created an uncertain future for doctors considering a career in rural medicine and present a challenge to the dwindling numbers of existing rural doctors. Rejuvenating the rural health workforce is of paramount importance to governments and stakeholders and innovative methods are required to help improve this situation. Revisiting the investigation of personality traits to better understand medical disciplines may provide a greater understanding of traits that are conducive to that discipline. No research to date has investigated the ‘rural doctor’, a profession that is increasingly recognised as an entity in itself. Methodologies that utilise a psychobiological model1 to describe the structure of temperament and character may provide a greater understanding of rural doctors and provide clues to what factors are beneficial for their retention. We specifically limited our investigation to temperament and character traits because these two components provide the most comprehensive description of personality. Temperament is the component of personality that is mildly heritable, developmentally stable and biologically determined. Character traits are a reflection of personal goals and values and are specified in terms of ‘subject-object’ relations. They are less innate, influenced by socio-cultural learning and mature in progressive steps throughout life. The Cloninger Temperament and Character Inventory (TCI) 2 is widely validated and the only personality instrument which integrates character and temperament by taking into account the psychobiology of personality. This pilot study served as a starting point to establish a psychobiological profile for rural general practitioners (GPs). The overall aim is to describe how individual combinations of temperament (mildly heritable) and character (influenced by socio-cultural learning) traits, in conjunction with personal experiences and background, affect GPs who ‘flourish or fail’ in rural medicine.


In a mixed-method study, 13 rural and remote GPs (minimum of seven years experience) from Central/Southern Queensland, Australia completed a demographic survey and the TCI-R1402, to identify the profile of the seven basic dimensions of temperament and character. Semi-structured interviews provided in-depth information on the factors that brought them to and kept them in rural practice.

Preliminary results demonstrate the character dimensions of our sample of rural GPs as highly Self Directed (SD), caring and Cooperative (CO), Objective (ST) and Persistent (PS). However, more individual variations occur in the temperament dimensions of Harm Avoidance (HA), Novelty Seeking (NS) and Reward Dependence (RD). In particular, GPs who intended to leave rural practice due to dissatisfaction had significantly higher HA (F=23.74; p<.01) than those GPs intent on staying.


Although preliminary, triangulation of the data sources provides a greater understanding of rural GPs and an insight into which particular combination of traits is most conducive to maintaining a rural career. This information may provide an adjunct to counselling students with an interest in rural medicine and informing policy on appropriate support initiatives for rural GPs and the communities they serve. 1. Cloninger CR et al. Archives of General Psychiatry 1993; 50: 975-990 2. Cloninger CR et al. The temperament and character inventory.1994, ISBN: 0-9642917-1-1
Subjects EX
170109 Personality, Abilities and Assessment
119999 Medical and Health Sciences not elsewhere classified
920506 Rural Health
939999 Education and Training not elsewhere classified
Q-Index Code EX
Q-Index Status Provisional Code

Document type: Conference Paper
Collection: School of Medicine Publications
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Created: Thu, 23 Oct 2008, 11:37:10 EST by Erin Bowly on behalf of Rural Clinical School - South West Qld Region