Extended Rural Cohort

The Extended Rural Cohort (ERC) provides rural training for students interested in practising medicine in a rural or regional location.

ERC comprises a group of 30 students who spend the third year of the MD course learning specialties, Aged Care, Women’s Health, Child and Adolescent Health, Mental Health and General Practice predominantly in a primary health care setting in regional Victoria.

The curriculum and assessments are the same as for other third year MD students.  The curriculum is delivered in 1-3 week blocks of specialty hospital placements and the rest of the time, ERC students are based in primary care.

The ERC program provides an excellent basis no matter what path you take through your medical career.  The level of involvement with the patient pathway and procedural skills, as well as the engagement within the practice, local hospital and community allows for a broader, holistic and comprehensive understanding of patient care.

The sky is the limit with the ERC experience and is greatly dependant on individual students being proactive learners and becoming actively engaged in their placements.  The program offers exceptional experience in assessing patients, presenting and communication.


Shepparton is a regional city, located two hours north of Melbourne. The twin towns of Shepparton and Mooroopna have a combined population of 46,000.

There are four general practices in Shepparton and one GP clinic in Mooroopna who are involved with the ERC program.

Greater Shepparton is synonymous with great food, wine, waterways and weather. The region boasts a diversity of cultural, outdoor and sporting activities seldom found anywhere else. The area features magnificent food and wine, glorious weather and all the attractions and activities you could imagine in a regional city. Travelling around the region you will find an array of farm gates and cellar doors with everything from wines, olives and cheeses to chocolate coated apples, just waiting to be tasted. Visit historic towns, check out the numerous studios and galleries, or enjoy Shepparton's great shopping experience.

Regular train services to Melbourne make weekend trips back home easy and affordable for students, family and friends. Living in the on-site RCS accommodation provides easy access to the Rural Clinical School, Goulburn Valley Health, Shepparton Medical Centre and Clinical Skills Lab – no chance of being late to class!

Students have the constant support of dedicated Clinical Education Facilitators (CEFs) in the medical, surgical and emergency departments at Goulburn Valley Health as well as access to the Clinical Skills Lab with its high fidelity simulation equipment. The smaller group sizes allow more one on one interactions with the clinicians and therefore more meaningful relationships are developed.

The Murchison practice is located a 20-30 minute drive from Shepparton, in a new clinic with excellent facilities. Students at the Murchison practice will be offered accommodation in our Shepparton student accommodation and can be timetabled together so you can usually travel together if you choose.

Health Service Facts

  • Goulburn Valley Health has over 280 beds
  • Emergency Department at GV Health sees approximately 32,000 patients annually
  • GV Health Clinical Streams
  • Child & Adolescent Health
  • Community Care
  • Emergency Medicine
  • General Medicine
  • Mental Health
  • Residential Aged Care
  • Surgical
  • Sub-Acute (encompassing Allied Health)
  • Women's Health
  • Students have access to the Goulburn Valley Health Library which offers a loan collection of approximately 5,000 books and 1200 journal titles
  • Wireless computer access throughout the accommodation and clinical school
  • Access to onsite computer lab 24/7
  • The Shepparton Medical Centre is the first purpose built teaching clinic in Australia and was developed to support the Rural Clinical School


The twin towns of Echuca-Moama are located on the Murray River, a two hour drive from Melbourne. Echuca was an important staging post for the first farming districts in Northern Victoria and Southern NSW. Echuca retains much of its history and pioneer-era buildings, making it a popular tourist destination with a unique Port and Paddle steamer fleet and quality eating venues. There are also Service clubs on both sides of the Murray River, sporting facilities and extensive visitor accommodation. Echuca has a population of 12,400.

The town is surrounded by critically acclaimed restaurants and wineries and boasts an active calendar of cultural activities such as Jazz and Blues Festivals and Amateur Theatre. For the adventure seekers there are plenty of adrenalin activities such as laser and paint ball, go carts and of course water skiing. Being on the Murray River, Echuca is a houseboat Mecca deep in history and surrounded by breathtaking nature and wildlife.

Echuca has three General Practices actively involved within the ERC program.

Regular train services to Melbourne make weekend trips back home easy and affordable for students, family and friends.

Health Service Facts

Echuca Regional Health covers a patient population of approximately 45,000 people from the catchment areas of the Shire of Campaspe and the Murray Shire.

  • 67 acute hospital beds
  • Comprehensive range of services including:
    • Emergency
    • Medical
    • Surgical
    • Maternity
    • Paediatric
    • Urology
    • Orthopaedic
    • Ophthalmology
    • Chemotherapy
    • Haemodialysis
  • Aged care service accommodates 68 high care, 5 low care residential beds and 6 transitional care beds.
  • Employs approximately 600 staff


Set in North East Victoria's Alpine Valleys between the Ovens and King Rivers, Wangaratta includes the Milawa Gourmet Region, King Valley, Beechworth, Bright, Glenrowan and Eldorado. Famous for its world class wines, excellent gourmet food, spectacular mountains, valleys, rivers and streams, historic links to Ned Kelly and Victoria's pioneering gold rush, the region is also the beginning of the Murray to Mountains Rail Trail and Great Alpine Road. For music lovers there is the annual Wangaratta Jazz Festival in November which attracts over 350 national and international performers each year.

Ideally located to take advantage of the winter season, Wangaratta is the perfect option for those of you who want to enjoy the snow season. Only 1.5 hours from Mt Buffalo and 2 hours from Mt Hotham, Mt Buller and Falls Creek, weekend trips to the snow make a perfect excuse for family and friends to visit. Wangaratta is an easy 2.5 hour drive from Melbourne on the Hume Highway or you can take advantage of the regular V/Line rail or bus services.

The Chalet (Rural Clinical School) is located on the Northeast Health Wangaratta site along with a state of the art Teaching and Learning Centre where students have access to high fidelity simulation equipment. Close proximity to the hospital allows students to develop strong links with clinicians and staff.

There are nine General Practices in, and around, Wangaratta involved with the ERC program.

Health Service Facts

  • Northeast Health Wangaratta has over 220 beds
  • Emergency Department sees over 20,200 patients annually
  • Northeast Health clinical streams
    • Acute
    • Sub-Acute
    • Paediatrics
    • Obstetrics
    • Gynaecology
    • Oncology
    • Mental Health
  • Distance to Melbourne – 2.5 hours
  • Students have access to the Northeast Health Wangaratta library service which has a loan collection of approximately 2,000 books and 70 journal titles.
  • Wireless computer access throughout The Chalet, Learning and Teaching Centre and Worland Road accommodation
  • Northeast Health Wangaratta and The University of Melbourne are partners in the Rural Health Academic Network (RHAN). Through our RHAN coordinator and our Education & Research Unit, community and hospital based clinical research, support of Post Graduate students undertaking research degrees or research components and development and evaluation of clinical innovations specific to rural health are all possible at Northeast Health.

Mount Beauty

Mount Beauty is a relatively young town, along with the surrounding townships of Falls Creek, Bogong, Tawonga South and Tawonga, are all part of a prospering tourist area with excellent services, new accommodation, food and a wide range of recreational activities available for all ages.

Enjoy the relaxed country living, friendly locals, cafes and vineyards in the area. Mount Beauty is a popular base for outdoor activities from downhill mountain bike riding for the adrenalin seekers to the peaceful game of golf, or some tranquil fishing in the clear mountain stream.

Of course Mount Beauty also comes with access to Falls Creek and students have the opportunity to spend some time at the Falls Creek Medical Centre during the snow season, as well as take the opportunity to ski or snow board in their leisure time too. Falls Creek is Australia's premier alpine village for the ski and snowboard enthusiast and during summer bush walking is very popular.

There are regular bus services available to Melbourne, Wangaratta, Albury/Wodonga and also to Falls Creek.

Health Service Facts

  • Urgent Care Services
  • Acute Medical Inpatient Care
  • Day Surgery (minor procedures)
  • Obstetrics/Gynaecology
  • Renal Dialysis
  • Radiology
  • Palliative Care
  • Pathology
  • Sports Medicine
  • Approximately 4 hours from Melbourne and 1.5 hours from Wangaratta.

Students placed at the Mount Beauty Medical Clinic all so have regular access to training, specialists clinics and hospital exposure at Northeast Health Wangaratta.


Yarrawonga is a popular holiday destination situated on the picturesque Lake Mulwala and the Murray River. It is well known for its warm stable climate. There is plenty to do in Yarrawonga and the surrounding district; cruise Lake Mulwala, water ski, kayak along the Murray, bush walk and visit local wineries and restaurants.

A regular bus service runs between Wangaratta and Yarrawonga and you can connect to the trains departing Wangaratta for either Melbourne or Sydney.

The Yarrawonga Health Service comprises of 19 acute medical and surgical beds; two labour delivery rooms, a dedicated day-stay unit, three residential facilities on-site with a total of 88 beds, as well as an adjacent Community Health Centre.

Health Service Facts

The Health Services provides the following:

  • emergency care
  • medical care
  • minor surgery
  • renal dialysis
  • meals on wheels
  • birthing services
  • residential aged care
  • a range of community health and support services.

Students will also access some medical services at Northeast Health Wangaratta and possibly Goulburn Valley Health where practicable.


Corowa is a prospering community located on the Murray River in New South Wales, within easy travelling distance to Albury, Wodonga, Wangaratta, Wagga Wagga and Shepparton. And is also only 3 hours from Melbourne.

Corowa boasts a vibrant outdoor lifestyle with a vibrant atmosphere. There are opportunities for camping, bush walking, swimming, fishing and water sport activities. The town is close to Rutherglen, Beechworth, Chiltern and Yackandandah with the Rutherglen wine region only 10km's away.

Health Service Facts

  • 18 bed hospital
  • Hospital employs 125 staff
  • Medical
  • Surgical
  • Emergency
  • Aged and community health services
  • Outpatient transitional rehabilitation aged care service
  • Antenatal

Regular visits from visiting specialists:

  • Obstetrician/Gynaecologist
  • Ophthalmologist
  • Physician
  • Orthopaedic Surgeon
  • Oncologist
  • Paediatrician
  • Dermatologist
  • Radiologist

There is a regular bus service running from Corowa for easier travel for students.

Students will also access some medical services at Northeast Health Wangaratta.


Cobram is just over three hours drive from Melbourne. Situated in the centre of the 'food bowl' of Australia, the Cobram Barooga and district is renowned for its magnificent climate and variety of available attractions and activities. The area is home to some of the most picturesque section s of Australia's mightiest river, the Murray.

With wide sandy beaches, towering gums and native bush in and surrounding Cobram, the natural environment allows for unparalleled wildlife and beautiful scenery.

An area rich in outdoor activities, with plenty of restaurants, wineries and a great retail sector. Socially it is a vibrant town with festivals, races and regular markets.

Cobram District Health provides heal services to over 14,000 people in the surrounding community. There are 30 acute medical and surgical beds, theatre facilities and an accident and emergency department. Co-located on the hospital campus is a 30 bed high care facility, medical clinics providing a range of primary care services that include a registered pathology laboratory with resident scientist.

Health Service Facts:

Services include:

  • Accident and Emergency Care
  • Day Procedure Unit
  • Palliative Care
  • Operating Suite
  • Medical Imaging (X-ray, ultrasound)

Cobram students will have access to health care services at Northeast Health Wangaratta and Goulburn Valley Health.

V-line offer train and bus services to Corowa.


The beautiful and productive rural landscapes of Benalla Rural City surround the township of Benalla and the communities of Baddaginnie, Devenish, Goorambat, Swanpool, Tatong, Thoona, and Winton.

Major features of the region include Lake Benalla, Mount Samaria State Park and Reef Hills State Park. The Rural City offers exciting recreation opportunities, including sporting facilities, aquatic centre, art gallery, performing arts and convention centre, airport and botanical gardens.

Benalla Rural City is ideally located close to the Victorian snowfields and is surrounded by quality wineries, fishing and other water activities. Melbourne is easily reached in two hours along the Hume Freeway. The Melbourne to Wodonga railway line also runs through the city which makes transport very accessible.

Health Service Facts

Benalla has a 55 bed hospital which provides the following services to community and its surrounds:

  • Urgent Care Centre
  • Day Procedure Unit
  • Medical
  • Surgical
  • Midwifery
  • Operating Theatre

Benalla students have access to health services at Northeast Health Wangaratta.


Mansfield is only situated in the foothills of the Great Dividing Range and is surrounded by grazing land and mountain forests. The town is very much a tourist town, featuring a wide range of accommodation and a vibrant commercial centre which caters for many visitors who then travel to the ski resorts of Mount Buller or Mount Stirling via Merrijig.

Lake Nillahcootie and Lake Eildon are close by and provide the opportunity to participate in a number of water activities such as fishing, water skiing and boating.

Health Service Facts

The Mansfield Hospital offers the following facilities to the community:

  • Emergency
  • Midwifery
  • Medical Imaging
  • Dialysis
  • Residential Aged Care

While in Mansfield you also have the opportunity to attend the Mount Buller to the Medical Centre during the snow season and participate it in ski patrols. While on the mountain you may get the opportunity to ski, snow board or just to enjoy the scenery with a hot chocolate.

Mansfield students will also have access to health services at Northeast Health Wangaratta.


  • What is NVRMEN?

    Northern Victoria Regional Medical Education Network (NVRMEN) refers to the network of sites at which medical students will be placed. It was a combined initiative between the University of Melbourne and Monash University funded by the Federal Government. A key component of the program is immersion in a rural community setting for 12 months. The University of Melbourne Rural Clincal School students placed at NVRMEN locations are the ERC students.

  • What is the ERC?

    The Extended Rural Cohort is a cohort of University of Melbourne medical students based at the Rural Clinical School, who spend at least 5 semesters with the Rural Clincal School and spend their MD3 year predominantly based in primary care placements across Northeast Victoria.

    There are a number of unique features to the ERC MD3 year

    • Students spend a minimum of 21 weeks attached to a primary care placement
    • In addition to their primary care placements, students undergo hospital mini-blocks (1-3 weeks in length) in the specialities of Aged Care, Child and Adolescent Health, Mental Health, Women’s Heath
    • Students will spend a considerable amount of time being the first person to assess primary care patients in a parallel consulting model
    • Students are exposed to undifferentiated illness at an early stage.
    • Students practice taking a history and performing a targeted examination with nearly every clinical encounter.

    Students are supported individually by GPs who are experienced educators.

  • Which Rural Clinical School sites can ERC students attend?

    Year 2

    Same as all MD2 RCS students – Bendigo, Ballarat, Shepparton or Wangaratta.

    Year 3

    Students are placed at one of our ERC locations: Shepparton, Murchison, Echuca, Wangaratta, Mt Beauty, Cobram, Corowa, Yarrawonga, Benalla or Mansfield.

    Year 4

    Same as all MD4 RCS students for semester 2 – Bendigo, Ballarat, Shepparton or Wangaratta.

  • Where are the "Community Based Year" locations?

    Shepparton, Murchison, Echuca, Wangaratta, Mt Beauty, Cobram, Corowa, Yarrawonga, Benalla or Mansfield.

  • How is the ERC different to the regular UoM medical curriculum?

    Year 2

    Same as all UoM medical student curriculum.

    Year 3

    "Community Based Year" - same curriculum different delivery.

    Year 4

    Same as all UoM medical student curriculum.

  • Are there any differences with examinations?

    The only difference in examinations is that non-ERC students sit one written paper mid-year (either CAH/WH or AC/GP/MH) whereas because of the year-long nature of the ERC, ERC students sit both written papers at the end of the year.

    Assessments are identical for ERC and non-ERC students, but because of the timing of mini-blocks, assessment deadline dates may vary for ERC students.

  • What will I learn in the "Community Based Year?"

    The same curriculum as other UoM medical students - Child and Adolescent Health, Women's Health, Mental Health, GP and Aged Care.

  • What are the hours during the "Community Based Year?"

    It is expected that you are available from 8am-5pm Monday to Friday. Dividing the week into 10 sessions, it is expected that students will spend 7-8 sessions in their general practice (or with their general practice supervisor), 1-2 sessions of private study consolidating their learning, and 1 session attending a speciality clinic at their placement location. Occasionally learning opportunities occur outside of these hours, and in the past, students have often made themselves available in the evening and on some weekends, particularly to attend births.

  • How will the teaching happen?

    Practices taking ERC students have highly experienced GP teachers, and many are affiliated with vocational training for GP registrars. ERC students are also supported by ERC Hub Educators and administrators based at Echuca, Shepparton, and Wangaratta.

  • Will I be ready to see patients?

    In this model, students will be provided with an intensive induction period prior to commencing the "Community Based Year".

  • Will I be alone in the "Community Based Year?"

    With the exception of Benalla and Yarrawonga, students will be placed in pairs during the "Community Based Year"; some placements will have more than 2 students at their location. In Benalla and Yarrawonga, there are interns based at these sites who often share accommodation and provide mentorship and a learning resource for ERC students. Students based at dispersed locations, Benalla, Cobram, Corrowa, Mt Beauty, Mansfield, Yarrawonga regularly have teaching days in Wangaratta to reduce any potential social isolation.

  • Can I choose where I am located for the "Community Based Year?"

    Sometime during Year 2 all ERC students are provided with information regarding the ERC locations. ERC students are able to submit their location preferences from 1 – 5. Student preferences are taken into account when allocating students to ERC sites, however, students are not guaranteed to be placed at one of their preferred locations.

  • How much will it cost for me to live at the accommodation?

    ERC students pay the same for accommodation as other RCS students, which is currently $100pw. Where students are required to travel eg to attend ERC induction, or to attend hospital miniblocks, the RCS will fund this travel.

  • Do I need a vehicle or is there transport available?

    It is recommended that all ERC students have their own reliable transport. Sites vary with travel requirements and distances.

  • Would spending time rurally disadvantage my chance of internship selection at my preferred location?

    The majority of RCS students receive their first preference for internship location.

  • Can I join the ERC?

    For already enrolled MD students, the RCS team keeps a reserve list of interested students keen to participate in the ERC. Expressions of interest detailing reasons why students wish to participate in the community year should be directed in writing to Julian Wright at julian.wright@unimelb.edu.au

The GPs in this practice are all very keen to have students and teach. All the staff at the practice are very friendly. There are a few GP obstetricians in the practice which means we have seen a lot of routine antenatal care in our GP time.