National Rural Generalist Pathway

The National Rural Generalist Pathway is a dedicated medical training pathway to attract, retain and support rural generalist doctors.

Rural generalists are general practitioners who provide primary care services and emergency medicine, and who have training in additional skills. For example, obstetrics, anaesthetics or mental health services. 

The National Rural Generalist Pathway recognises the extra requirements and skills of rural generalists. It supports them to meet the diverse health needs of regional, rural and remote Australians. Rural generalists give these communities access to a broader range of specialist medical services. 

About the initiative

In December 2018, the National Rural Health Commissioner advised the Australian Government on the development of a National Rural Generalist Pathway. In response, the government committed $62.2 million in the 2019–20 Budget to:

  • install a training pathway for rural generalists
  • provide additional training places for GPs in regional, rural and remote communities. 

Specific training for rural generalists ensures that GPs and registrars have the right skills to practice in rural settings. This means that rural generalists can address the shifting needs of regional, rural and remote communities. 

Life as a rural generalist: providing healthcare to rural and remote Australia


RUTH: I’m Ruth Stewart, I’m the National Rural Health Commissioner and I’ve been a rural generalist for over 35 years now. It’s the best job in the world.

Rural generalists are equipped to work in rural and remote settings. We really need very skilled clinicians working in remote communities. The National Rural Generalist Pathway is a training program for doctors so that they can end with the skills and competence – and confidence – to work in a rural or remote community, anywhere in Australia. So that governments and health departments, hospitals and clinical practices will recognise the scope of practice and those qualifications as being the signifier that you have the skills to work here.

In setting up the pathway, we’re seeking recognition of rural generalism as a specialised field within general practice. That’s a bit the same as cardiology is a specialised field within internal medicine. So, you’re still a physician with an expertise in internal medicine, but your specialised field is cardiology. Well, I’m still a general practitioner, but I have a specialised field of rural generalism.

PRESTON: I’m Preston Cardelli. I’m one of the provisional senior medical officers working here at Thursday Island. I work as a trainee rural generalist and my skillset is that I’m a training GP registrar with an advanced skill in anaesthetics. I’m able to provide support in a critical care situation and also help out with aeromedical retrievals if needed.

I grew up in a rural area. I always knew that I was going to live in a rural and remote area as much as I could. I knew that I wanted to be a rural doctor because it meant that I could return back to where I felt like my foundations were. And through my medical student rotations, I was able to meet people who were working in the role of a rural generalist. Just fascinated and inspired by the stuff that they do day-to-day because it’s amazing, they do such a wide scope of practice. That’s why I wanted to be a doctor that could manage lots of things, that’s why I chose rural medicine.

RUTH: Rural generalists work in what we often refer to as a resource-poor environment. We don’t have CT scans, MRI scans, we don’t have a coronary catheter lab just onsite. If someone has a heart attack, we need to be able to stabilise them, to consult with our specialist colleagues who are at a distance, not just down the corridor, and deliver the care that’s needed now and decide whether this patient needs to be transferred for further care. And that’s a really important thing about rural generalist training – if you turn up in that environment, you train for it, you know what to do when stuff happens because stuff happens. And if you are a person living in a rural and remote community, you want to know that the doctor who you’re just about to meet knows what to do when stuff happens.

PRESTON: The days in the life of a rural generalist up here, probably very different to a lot of other places. My role, I could be doing anything from adjusting a medication on someone for a long-term treatment plan to retrieving someone and putting someone in a coma in an outer island or delivering a baby. You know, it’s just such a wide scope.

RUTH: Yes, some of those emergency situations that I intervened and saved a life, and you know they come but it’s those times where it’s not as easy as just doing one thing. Where it’s being with someone through the course of their illness and the management of it that can only occur if you provide continuity of care.

PRESTON: I think some of the most rewarding parts about being a rural generalist are the fact that you get to be involved in the community. Torres Strait Islander people are very cultural and very family-based and to be invited into someone’s wedding or funeral is a really big deal, and I don’t think that I would get a chance to be involved in something like that if I wasn’t living and working in a remote area. What I would tell myself 6 or 7 years ago when I first embarked on the journey when I first signed up, it’s everything that you’re expecting it to be plus a whole lot more.

RUTH: Innovation, when you approach it as a rural generalist, you can enable the delivery of care in your community that is equal to what anybody in Australia can get. It just looks different. I never have to wonder whether the work I’m doing is helpful. I know every night when I go to sleep that I have made a difference to people’s lives and that is such, such a wonderful and privileged experience.

Why it is important 

Rural generalists are an important part of our regional, rural and remote health workforce. They broaden the range of locally available medical services for rural Australians and work as part of health care teams. This helps these communities to access the right care, in the right place, at the right time, as close to home as possible. Growing our rural generalist workforce will reduce hospital admissions, reduce the use of locum services and limit the need for patient travel. 


The national pathway aims to: 

  • formally recognise the role and skills of rural generalists 
  • improve the coordination of rural generalist training 
  • increase support for rural generalists 
  • increase opportunities for doctors to train and practise in both hospital and primary care settings in regional, rural or remote communities 
  • keep doctors working in regional, rural or remote communities. 

Meeting our goals 

We are working to meet our goals through several key activities.   

Coordination units 

Rural generalist coordination units have been established in all states and the Northern Territory. 

Coordination units manage the training pipeline for rural generalists. They also help doctors transition between their postgraduate clinical and training components in both hospitals and primary care. 

You can contact the coordination unit in your area for more information on joining a rural generalist training pathway:

National recognition 

We funded the Australian general practice colleges to apply to the Medical Board of Australia (MBA) to recognise rural generalist medicine as a distinct field of general practice.

The general practice colleges are the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine (ACRRM) and the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP).

The Australian Medical Council is now assessing the application for recognition and will give advice to the MBA.

John Flynn Prevocational Doctor Program

The John Flynn Prevocational Doctor Program (JFPDP) streamlines and coordinates medical training in regions by: 

  • expanding the number and distribution of rural primary care placements available to junior doctors
  • increasing rural medical training capacity
  • improving retention of medical graduates and junior doctors in rural medical practice 
  • strengthening the rural training pathway to improve training continuity in state and territory regions.

The JFPDP is a main component of the National Rural Generalist Pathway. The JFPDP commenced in January 2023. It consolidated the two funding streams under the Rural Junior Doctor Training Innovation Fund (RJDTIF) core and the expansion of the RJDTIF. 

The JFPDP is part of a range of investments in the rural training pipeline. Evidence shows that if doctors train in rural areas they are more likely to work in rural areas. The JFPDP also addresses some of the priorities under the National Medical Workforce Strategy by helping to grow the rural GP and rural generalist workforce.

Rural generalist training 

From 2021, the ACRRM will deliver up to 100 extra rural generalist training places through the Rural Generalist Training Scheme. Rural generalist training also continues to be available through the Australian General Practice Training Program

Other ways we support rural generalists

Some incentives available to GPs and general practices also support rural careers and rural generalists on approved training programs. For example, the Workforce Incentive Program – Rural Advanced Skills payment which commenced in January 2024. The payment, among other things, aims to encourage: 

  • GPs to consider the National Rural Generalist Pathway 
  • rural generalists to broaden the range of services available to patients in rural communities. 

A range of incentives and programs are available to support GPs and general practices. This includes incentives to support multidisciplinary team care. Incentives are typically scaled so that the more remote your place of practice, the higher your incentive. To find out more, see the Modified Monash Model classification fact sheets.

Who we work with 

The National Rural Health Commissioner supports the rollout of the pathway. The commissioner also consults the rural health sector to make progress on other key elements of rural generalism. 

The coordination units in each state and the Northern Territory assist doctors on a rural generalist training pathway. 

The GP colleges are leading the application for national recognition.


We have established a governance structure to further implement the pathway and to consider the remaining recommendations. 

All the coordination units have been established and funding arrangements are in place until June 2026. We continue to work in partnership with these units and other stakeholders to support a rural generalist medical workforce. 

Date last updated:

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