Training Psychiatrists for Rural Practice: A 20-Year Follow-up



This report describes the Rural Psychiatry Residency Program at the University of New Mexico (UNM RPRP) and presents findings from a survey of program graduates.


Current practice location of residency graduates was identified to learn whether graduates of the UNM RPRP continued to practice in rural communities compared to the graduates of the traditional residency program. Additionally, a web-based survey was completed by 37 of the 60 graduates who participated in the UNM RPRP since its inception in 1991 through 2010. Questions addressed current practice, perceived barriers, and perceptions of experiences.


Thirty-seven percent of the graduates from the UNM RPRP currently practice in rural communities compared to 10 % of the graduates from the traditional residency track. Of the survey respondents, 95 % continue to work with underserved individuals. Reported barriers to practice in rural areas include professional isolation, lack of referral resources, and travel distances. Respondents reported valuing education about systems based practice and telepsychiatry.


Purposeful and well-coordinated educational opportunities situated in rural community health clinics can address some of the barriers for recruiting and retaining practicing psychiatrists in rural areas. Practical skill building at the individual, agency, and system level is integral in training psychiatrists for work in these communities. In particular, the use of telepsychiatry emerged as an important practical application for the provision of rural mental health care.

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None of the authors of this manuscript have any conflicts of interest to declare.

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Correspondence to Caroline Bonham.

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Bonham, C., Salvador, M., Altschul, D. et al. Training Psychiatrists for Rural Practice: A 20-Year Follow-up. Acad Psychiatry 38, 623–626 (2014).

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  • Telepsychiatry
  • Rural mental health care
  • Systems-based practice
  • Psychiatry residents