Longer placements could ease rural doctor shortage

Longer placements could ease rural doctor shortage

News
Twenty-nine-year-old student doctor James Greenhalgh had two main choices for his third year placement - stay in Adelaide to work in a city hospital or travel to the NT to work remote.

Twenty-nine-year-old student doctor James Greenhalgh had two main choices for his third year placement - stay in Adelaide to work in a city hospital or travel to the NT to work remote.

Aa

Despite more doctors than ever before churning through Australian universities, hospitals are still struggling to attract workers to remote regions.

Aa

Despite more doctors than ever before churning through Australian universities, hospitals are still struggling to attract workers to remote regions.

Communities across the Territory have faced a chronic shortage of health professionals.

And governments often turn to overseas-trained doctors to fill the gaps.

Widespread concerns have prompted organisations and the Northern Territory Government to implement schemes aimed at making remote work more appealing.

It is not just the health field fighting tooth and nail to attract a workforce.

Working professionals, including teachers, are offered generous salaries, subsidised accommodation and development.

But according to new research, the best way to attract quality medical practitioners to smaller remote towns long term is by expanding year-long community-based medical student placements.

The study looked at medical students who had completed a year-long placement in a small remote hospital in Victoria and found they were five times more likely to be working as a remote doctor after graduation.

The study was published in the Rural and Remote Health journal and is the first known study which specifically looks at where students who spend a full year in rural general practice end up.

Dr Deb Russell, senior research fellow from the College of Medicine and Public Health at Flinders University, said the results highlight the importance of developing strategies which facilitate positive outcomes for smaller communities.

"Our findings suggest that Australian medical schools should consider expanding rural programs and lengthening rural placements, so that workforce needs in smaller rural and remote communities can be better met by domestic students, rather than having to rely on overseas-trained doctors," she said.

Twenty-nine-year-old student doctor James Greenhalgh had two main choices for his third year placement - stay in Adelaide to work in a city hospital or travel to the NT to work remote.

In a bid to expand his knowledge base and make a difference where it is needed most, he chose the latter.

Four weeks into his rotation at the Katherine Hospital, after six months in Darwin, he said he has a better understanding of the opportunities available.

"In Adelaide there is a higher portion of those higher up who get preferenced to do procedures, but here you are not crowded out by experience," he said.

"I've had opportunities to do things other students down south wouldn't have dreamed about, which are excellent for our learning."

He was one of five in a bunch of 120 students to take on the remote challenge - in part to round out his medical knowledge to work globally.

"The NT has socio-economic issues which parallel issues in the developing world and I'm looking to work for Doctors Without Borders."

He said he is also interested in rural and remote programs looking towards the future.

"I feel like I have a greater sense of purpose in a regional area."

The full study, Outcomes of a 1-year longitudinal integrated medical clerkship in small rural Victorian communities can be read here.

Katherine Times

Aa

From the front page

Sponsored by