Going back to ‘the village’: The effect of UDRH allied health student placements on rural practice intention

Annie Farthing1, Tony Smith2, Keith Sutton3, Sabrina Pitt4, Daniel Terry5

1Centre for Remote Health, PO Box 4066, NT 0871, annie.farthing@flinders.edu.au
2University of Newcastle Department of Rural Health, Manning Education Centre, 69A High Street, Taree, NSW 2430, tony.smith@newcastle.edu.au
3Monash University Department of Rural and Indigenous Health, PO Box 973, Moe, Victoria 3825, keith.sutton@monash.edu
4University Centre for Rural Health, Western Sydney University, POBOX 93 Lennox head, NSW 2478, Sabrina.Pit@ucrh.edu.au
5Department of Health, PO Box 6500, Shepparton, Vic 3632, d.terry@unimelb.edu.au


Medical workforce research shows rural undergraduate student placements impact positively on graduates taking up positions in non-metropolitan locations. However, little is known about the impact of such placements on allied health students. This presentation profiles allied health student placements at the 11 University Departments of Rural Health (UDRH) in Australia and examines the impact on students’ intention to enter rural practice after graduation.


Under the Australian Rural Health Education Network (ARHEN) Student Survey Working Group, staff from all UDRHs collaborated to develop a student placement evaluation questionnaire that included 21 common questions. Data collected between July 2014 and November 2015 was aggregated and analysed for demographic information, length and type of placement, satisfaction with various aspects of the placement, and future intention to work in a rural or remote area.


In total, 1,536 allied health students responded. The largest disciplines were Pharmacy (17.5%) and Physiotherapy (16.8%), followed by Dentistry (11.1), Speech Pathology (9.6%), Dietetics (9.24%) and Occupational Therapy (9.18%). The sample was 76% female and 13 respondents (0.85%) identified as Indigenous. The majority of students had placements of 5 weeks to 3 months duration (49.3%) and were placed in Public Hospitals (38.0%) and Community Health (35.2%) settings in locations classified as MMM 3 to 5 (81.7%). Overall satisfaction was high at 91.8%. Before placement, 55.2% said they intended practicing in a rural location after graduation. After their placements this had increased to 65.0%, demonstrating a positive net gain in students’ intention to enter rural practice.


I have lived and worked in Central Australia for 24 years.  I have a background in physiotherapy, an interest in Indigenous and community health. I am currently working at the Centre for Remote Health supporting nursing and allied health students on placements at various sites in Central Australia. I love living in the town of Alice Springs and I’m keen to support quality health services into the future by coordinating student placements for the next generation of remote health professionals.

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