Rural Family Medical Network RMFN NSW rural doctors network

Bush Friends Mentoring Program

Research on rural GP retention has revealed that spouse/partner orientation to rural life plays a major part in GP decisions to remain in rural practice.

RMFN's Bush Friends Mentoring Program utilises the knowledge and experience of spouses of existing rural GPs to welcome and support spouses of new rural GPs.

Aim of the program

The program extends a welcoming hand of friendship to spouses of new rural GPs and provides information, support and confidence to adjust and adapt to their new social surrounds and lifestyle.

How the program works

Each recently relocated spouse of a rural GP is personally contacted by an RMFN representative to welcome them to their new town and provide information about how RMFN can support them and their family. They are also offered the opportunity to have local and individualised support via their own Bush Friend who is the spouse of a local GP in their new town or within an hour’s drive (if possible).

Once RMFN has received a request for a Bush Friend:

  • Existing mentors in the same town or nearby are contacted and offered the role. If there are none available, a new one is sourced from the local or nearby rural medical community.
  • Spouses are matched by gender (e.g. male spouses with male spouses) and, where possible, by similar cultural background or experience.
  • Support may be in the form of meeting up for morning tea and a chat, introducing them to other like-minded people, providing information about the town/region or just sharing experiences of being the spouse of a rural GP.
  • Individual contact is provided for a number of months to help settle a family into their new rural location.

There are currently 30 experienced rural spouses listed as Bush Friends mentors, 10 of whom are presently providing much-appreciated ongoing mentoring friendships with newly relocated rural medical spouses.

The program has been undergoing continuous improvement using feedback from mentors and mentees since its inception in November 2011.

Benefits of the program

Benefits of the program for newly relocated spouses include:

  • Meeting local people and receiving local knowledge.
  • Learning the ‘unwritten rules’ of life as a rural medical family.
  • Gaining new or different perspectives on issues.
  • Feeling settled and happy in a new rural life faster.
  • Receiving encouragement and support during the transition phase.
  • Tapping into the informal support network within the rural medical community.

As well as the new rural spouse benefiting from the program, Bush Friends mentors:

  • Gain personal fulfilment through helping others.
  • Meet others and share ideas.
  • Contribute to the retention of rural medical families.
  • Create relationships that positively impact on the quality of people’s lives.
  • Develop skills in mentoring and people development.

Becoming a Bush Friends mentor

Spouses of rural GPs who have lived in rural NSW for a number of years are invited to become a Bush Friends mentor.

Please note that there is no longer training required for being a mentor. In the early days of the program a training workshop was offered. However, ongoing feedback from existing mentors indicated that while these workshops were very enjoyable, useful and provided an interesting personal development opportunity, the training was not essential for performing this kind of mentoring role.

To register your interest in becoming a mentor or for further information please call RDN on 02 4924 8000. Do something positive today!

Also, if you know of someone who might benefit from being welcomed and supported by a Bush Friends mentor, please call RDN.


*For example: Kamien, M. (1998). Staying In or Leaving Rural Practice: 1996 Outcomes of Rural Doctors’ 1986 Intentions. The Medical Journal of Australia, 169(6), 318–321; McGrail, M. R., & Humphreys, J. S. (2015). Geographical mobility of general practitioners in rural Australia. Medical Journal of Australia 203(2), 92–7, doi: 10.5694/mja14.01375.