The ties that bind: Social network analysis describes the social element of medical workforce recruitment to rural/remote Australia

Yulia Shiikha, Rebekah Ledingham, Denese Playford

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We present the argument that medical recruitment to a previously under-recruited remote town was effected through what Social Network Analysis (SNA) measures as "brokerage" which operates amidst "structural holes". We proposed that medical graduates being generated by the national Rural Health School movement in Australia were particularly affected by the combined effect of workforce lacks (structural holes) and strong social com-mitments (brokerage) - all key SNA concepts. We therefore chose SNA to assess whether the characteristics of RCS-related rural recruitment had feature that SNA might be able to identify, as operantly measured using the industry-standard UCINET's suite of statistical and graphical tools. The result was clear. Graphical output from the UCINET editor showed one individual as being central to all recently recruited doctors to one rural town with recruitment issues like all the others. The statistical outputs from UCINET characterised this person as the single point of most connections. The real-world engagements of this central doctor were in accord with the description of brokerage, a core SNA construct, relationship with reported the reason for these new graduates both coming and staying in town. SNA thus proved fruitful in this first quantification of the role of social networks in drawing new medical recruits to particular rural towns. It allowed description at the level of individual actors with a potent influence on recruitment to rural Australia. We propose these measures could be helpful as key perfor-mance indicators for the national Rural Clinical School programme that is generating and distributing a large workforce in Australia, which appears from this work to have a strong social basis. This redistribution of medical workforce from urban to rural is needed internationally.
Original languageEnglish
Article number115806
Number of pages6
JournalSocial Science & Medicine
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2023

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