Bourke L and Wright J
This paper explores perceptions of rural practice among medical students based in metropolitan clinical schools as they undertook a three week rural health module.
Objective: The study objective was to ascertain metropolitan medical students’ perceptions of rural practice.
Design: Qualitative research based on analysis of a temporal series of focus groups with medical students participating in a rural health module.
Setting: Two rotations of a compulsory rural health module comprising an orientation, a rural health placement and a placement project in a regional centre or small town in North West Victoria.
Participants: 69 final year medical students who took part in the rural health module focus groups during 2013.
Results: Students demonstrated low initial expectations regarding rural practice. They had negative expectations about living and working in rural practice, particularly fear of clinical isolation and living in small towns. During the module students appreciated being part of a community and the rewards of rural practice. Initially students were very negative about the possibility of future rural practice but after the module students were more open to the idea of a rural career.
Conclusions: This research demonstrates two important findings. First, many students based in a metropolitan clinical school have preconceived negative ideas about a rural practice and a rural health career before they experience a rural environment. Second, this group of metropolitan based medical students had many misconceptions about rural health which were addressed by participating in the rural health module. We conclude that all Australian medical students should continue to be exposed to rural practice.