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Liz Banks-Anderson
banks(at)unimelb.edu.au
+ 61 3 8344 4362
0481 013 333

Short-term medical placements in the bush can transform metropolitan medical student attitudes towards rural medical careers, a University of Melbourne study has found.

Published today in the Medical Journal of Australia, the research shows short-term rural placements can change student perceptions of rural health by improving their knowledge of issues facing rural health practitioners and patients. 



This research is another step to addressing the lack of doctors in rural areas.



Lead researcher Professor Julian Wright from the University’s Rural Health Academic Centre said rural training placements provided valuable learning opportunities for students in training by presenting alternative clinical situations.



“Medical students require an understanding of rural practice, which presents different challenges to urban medicine,” he said. 


Metropolitan-based medical students at The University of Melbourne took part in a three-week Rural Health Module run by the Rural Health Academic Centre.

Students answered a questionnaire and took part in focus groups before the program, after the orientation and on the last day of the RHM.


“The focus groups and questionnaires completed by students after taking part in the Rural Health Module (RHM) demonstrated a significant shift in their appreciation of, and positivity towards rural practice. This demonstrated students were more positive about a career in rural medicine after completing the RHM.” 



“This evaluation of the RHM suggests that there are benefits to be gained from short-term rural placements incorporating formal rural health teaching in terms of knowledge of, and attitudes to, rural health issues,” Professor Wright said.

Whether positive change in attitudes to rural health issues continues, resulting in students being more likely to pursue a career in rural health, remains untested.