More than 120 medical students from the University of Tasmania have been placed in rural communities, for an annual program preparing them to become doctors.
Rural Week (3–7 April) allowed medical students in their second year to experience living and working rurally, while learning about the access and delivery of rural health care services.
Through supervised clinical exposure with GPs and visits to hospitals, aged care providers, health hubs and local pharmacies, the students gained an understanding of rural health conditions and also the health needs and priorities in rural communities.
They also met with the emergency services and council representatives to explore models and measures promoting healthy living, while participating in a number of industry tours to observe occupational health and safety practices.
Dr Lizzi Shires, Director of the Rural Clinical School, said the annual program was a crucial part of the University’s Bachelor of Medicine/Bachelor of Surgery curriculum.
“Rural Week has been designed to provide second-year medical students with an experiential learning opportunity where they are immersed in communities. Students are able to talk to residents about their health and explore the services available in rural areas,” Dr Shires said.
“This forms an important part of their course as it teaches them about rural health care and ensures that they understand how to deliver appropriate care to rural patients who present at city clinics and hospitals.
“We hope the Rural Week experience will encourage these students to return to study in a rural area later on in the course, and will allow them to see all the advantages of living and working in rural areas.”
The 124 medical students departed Hobart on Monday, 3 April, divided into groups of four to 17 and placed across 19 rural communities.
Throughout the week they were equipped with questionnaires guiding them as they engaged with health professionals and residents to learn about prevailing health issues.
Professor Ben Canny, Head of the University’s School of Medicine, said prior to Rural Week students were assessed on research essays detailing information drawn from existing medical resources about their designated communities.
“Rural Week is critical to the education and training of our medical students, and important in helping shape their future careers,” Professor Canny said.
“The students gain an initial awareness of health issues in these rural communities through information they gather for their essays. This knowledge is then broadened during their placements so that afterwards they can have a better understanding of rural health care, services and social determinants of health within the community.
“Rural Week would not be possible without the assistance of many community organisations, and we must thank the rural healthcare providers, professionals, local councils, industry and community members for their generous support.”
At the end of their placements, the students shared formal presentations in each community about their Rural Week experience.