For rural and regional Australia, the main innovation in university based medical education has been the introduction of rural clinical schools to provide medical education and clinical training in rural environments. There is an increasing body of evidence supporting the existence of a strong relationship between rural educational exposure and an increased interest in pursuing a rural career or selecting a rural internship.13 In 2006, there were 379 medical students in 14 schools in the Rural Clinical Schools Program. (National Rural Health Alliance submission) (Australian Medical Students' Association submission)
For people in rural and remote areas, the important thing will be to ensure that sufficient of these new professionals are skilled for and committed to practice in rural and remote areas so that, at any given time in the future, rural and remote areas have their fair share of the nation's health professionals.
The number of Rural Australia Medical Undergraduate Scholarships has remained constant while the number of students entering medicine has increased: from 1,265 domestic students entering medicine in 2000 to a projected 3,074 domestic students entering in 2010. This represents a 143% increase in the number of domestic students entering medicine and with that should have been a commensurate increase in rural student numbers. Similar arguments can be applied to the Medical Rural Bonded Scholarships scheme, which delivers a similar number of scholarships as it did five years ago.
A barrier to the entry of rural students to medicine is seen to be the difficulty in gaining support to move from a regional area. People are disinclined to risk entering a course, at a site remote to their support networks that would require large time commitments for study and also require them to undertake significant paid employment to support themselves.
(National Rural Health Alliance submission)University Departments of Rural Health (UDRH) are also funded to provide medical, nursing and allied health training. The most common allied health disciplines include physiotherapy, pharmacy, occupational therapy and podiatry. During the period January 2007 to June 2007, there were 510 medical placements, 615 nursing placements and 370 allied health placements in 11 UDRHs. Course completion information is not available.
(Australian Medical Students' Association submission)
13 Australian Medical Workforce Advisory Committee, Career Decision Making by Postgraduate Doctors, 2005.