Medical students value rural training

MEDICAL students who come to Orange on a rural placement for one year are more likely to work as an intern in a rural area than those who come from a rural background.

This was the finding of a research project led by Dr Tyler Clark who, together with colleagues from Sydney University’s Medical School, including Associate Professor Anthony Brown, examined three successive cohorts of students in placement centres including Orange, Dubbo and Broken Hill.

Associate Professor Brown said two groups of 16 students worked on rotation at Orange Health Service this year and similar numbers were expected in 2014.

During their time in Orange the students rotated between medical and surgical wards, critical care, psychology, perinatal and women’s health, and paediatrics.

The findings of the study were published in the Medical Journal of Australia this month.

“The data clearly shows that we can ‘convert’ people to come and work in the bush,” Associate Professor Brown said.

He says medical students who come to a centre like Orange speak of positive experiences of having more direct interaction with teaching staff.

“They get the opportunity to work in smaller groups than they would if they were in a larger city hospital and develop much closer relationships with their tutors and the hospital,” he said.

Associate Professor Brown said the training program would not be possible without the support of local clinicians.

“We rely heavily on the commitment of local doctors who are extremely supportive, despite their own workloads,” he said.

Dr Clark said the student study found respondents who undertook an extended rural placement were  three times more likely to express a first preference for a rural internship and twice more likely to accept a rural internship, as those from rural backgrounds.

He said an appreciation of unique educational opportunities in a rural setting, smaller numbers of students, and closer involvement with the health of rural communities were among the factors listed by respondents in the research project.

Associate Professor Brown said competition for placements in Orange next year was strong, with more students than places available. 

“We are over-subscribed and so we have had to go through a process to select our group,” he said.

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