Data from Going Rural Health's student placement evaluation survey 2019 and the top 7 reasons why students loved their rural placement.

Students overwhelmingly love rural clinical placements. Whether or not they intend to work rurally after graduation, the majority of students believe that a rural placement has been beneficial to their learning.

Rural health service staff have seen many a student arrive displeased to be on a rural placement, and leave well satisfied with the experience.

Here are the top 7 reasons why students loved their rural placements, taken from our Student Placement Evaluation survey data in 2019.

  1. Support and time given to students by clinical and buddy educators, and staff in general.

    This was easily the most common response given by students about their rural placement. Going Rural Health (GRH) staff work closely with health service educators and preceptors, and it is obvious they care that their students are well supported. Students said:

    ‘(I) have felt really supported and happy with the placement….. the educators and staff have been brilliant’.

    ‘The great team who supported me, nothing was too much trouble for them’.

  2. Welcoming people and staff – in the organisation and the town itself

    Students genuinely appreciated being welcomed into the rural health service and community in which they were learning, especially if they were not familiar with the region and didn’t know anyone in town. As one student said:

    ‘Staying rural is just amazing! People generally are very friendly and approachable which gives a better opportunity to learn’.

  3. Exposure to a range of patient conditions/more opportunities to learn

    Rural health professionals tend to have a varied case load. One rural health professional stated she never knew what condition a patient is going to come through the door with, which kept her interested and excited. Students seem to agree. As one student said:

    ‘I got a diverse range of cases and patients with a range of medical conditions, which made it very interesting and informative’.

  4. Development of skills and confidence

    This was another common theme, as the rural environment seems to create good conditions for developing and consolidating clinical skills, and self-confidence as a result. There are many great quotes from students:

    ‘The staff were very friendly and made me feel a part of the team. (It was) a great environment to learn in to gain valuable experience and confidence in my knowledge and skills.’

    ‘I found that most clients appreciated my services, even as a student, compared to in metro areas where clients didn’t regard students as highly…..This gave me more confidence in my practice, as I felt that the clients valued my input.’

    ‘The friendly and supportive environment definitely helped me settle in and get my feet more quickly than I have on previous placements – this contributed to improving my confidence and helping me to focus more on practicing my skills and time management.’

  5. Lifestyle in the rural area

    This is unsurprising to those of us who live rurally, but seemed to be worthy of mention by students:

    ‘I love rural placements; growing up in a rural setting it always feels like home. The small town experience is great as you soon become involved in the community and feel like you fit in. It is a flexible lifestyle and everyone is very approachable.’

    ‘The people, the drive to work, no traffic lights and the lifestyle, and being home in time to do recreational activities.’

  6. Sense of community

    This again was a unique experience for those who hadn’t lived or worked in a rural environment previously. The following are all comments of what students found to the the positive aspects of their rural practice experience:

    ‘The community closeness (everyone knowing everyone)’

    ‘Great working community’

    ‘I really enjoyed my placement & am seriously considering a rural grad year now. I have seen how much more of a community feel there is in these towns and thoroughly enjoyed being a part of it.’

    ‘It was a lovely placement in a beautiful community where I was given a lot of support and guidance.’

    ‘Very strong community spirit, close knit but not clique staff.’

  7. The positive, collaborative learning environment

    There was comment on the fact that rural teams seem to work together well, even across disciplines, meaning students learn a little about about their scope of practice. For example:

    ‘Learning from a collaborative acute allied health team that work well together to ensure patients are receiving client-centered and effective therapy.’

    ‘I had many positive experiences during my rural practice placement. I enjoyed being part of a small team of professionals who were all contributing to achieve positive outcomes for their clients

So for those of you thinking about a rural placement – take the leap! And those of you who have been allocated one – be prepared to enjoy the experience.

There is support available for rural placements from Going Rural Health (and other programs) in Victoria. See Student Support Scheme for more details.

During COVID-19 Going Rural Health are continuing to support students. Please follow COVID-19 social distancing requirements, and self-isolate and get tested if you are sick.

Trish Thorpe

Associate Lecturer, Rural Placement Co-ordinator

Going Rural Health Ballarat

Clinical Biochemist/Medical Scientist & Teacher