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Original Research

A multi-university evaluation of the rural clinical school experience of Australian medical students

Submitted: 8 April 2010
Revised: 8 June 2010
Published: 23 August 2010

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Author(s) : McLean RG, Pallant J, Cunningham C, DeWitt DE.

Rick McLeanJulie PallantChristine CunninghamDawn DeWitt

Citation: McLean RG, Pallant J, Cunningham C, DeWitt DE.  A multi-university evaluation of the rural clinical school experience of Australian medical students. Rural and Remote Health (Internet) 2010; 10: 1492. Available: (Accessed 18 October 2017)


Introduction:††Medical students have been attending rural clinical schools (RCSs) since 2001. Although there have been generally positive single institution reports, there has been no multi-institution study using a common survey instrument. The experiences of medical students who attended a number of RCSs during 2006 were evaluated using a rural-specific questionnaire.
Methods:††Questionnaires were distributed to 166†medical students who had completed one year at the RCS of six participating universities across Australia, including the Universities of New South Wales, Melbourne, Tasmania, Adelaide, and Sydney, and the Australian National University, of whom 125†responded (75.3%). Students were asked to rate their level of agreement on 29†items concerning their overall RCS experience, skills development and clinical supervision experience.
Results:††The majority of respondents (n†=†107, 86%) stated they would go to the RCS again if they had their time over and almost two-thirds (n†=†77, 64%) stated they would spend more time at the RCS if they could. All items evaluating the educational experience recorded greater than 80% agreement (indicating very positive perceptions of the RCS experience). For the items concerning skills development, the highest level of agreement related to developing procedural skills (n†=†121, 97%). For items relating to clinical supervision the agreement rate exceeded 80%. The majority of students found supervisors approachable (n†=†121, 97%), enthusiastic (n†=†120, 96%) and respectful (n†=†119, 95%).
Conclusions:††Studentsí experiences in the RCSs are unequivocally positive. Most importantly, the RCS environment was conducive to learning and the development of clinical skills, the students were able to see an adequate number of patients and were well-prepared for examinations, and their supervisors were very good and acted as positive role models. This augers well for the success of the RCS program and for its role in attracting future doctors to work in rural environments.

Key words:††Australia, doctor shortage, medical education, medical students, rural clinical school, rural medical education.

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