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Original Research

Who paints the picture? Images of health professions in rural and remote student resources

Submitted: 23 December 2014
Revised: 3 May 2015
Accepted: 5 May 2015
Published: 23 September 2015

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Author(s) : Gorton SM.

Susan Gorton

Citation: Gorton SM.  Who paints the picture? Images of health professions in rural and remote student resources. Rural and Remote Health (Internet) 2015; 15: 3423. Available: (Accessed 17 October 2017)


Introduction: Rural and remote Australia has a severe shortage of health professionals and the health of its people is relatively poor. For decades, national and international studies have demonstrated that health professionals who grow up in rural areas are more likely to practise in rural areas when compared with health professionals raised in the city. However, an often unrecognised consequence of the severe shortage of health professionals is the severe shortage of role models to inspire rural and remote school students to go on to become health professionals. So how do these school students paint a picture for themselves of what it would be like to be a health professional? Do they acquire images from school? Career development theorists suggest that children start to shape ideas about careers before preschool and then continue to shape these ideas throughout their school years. They also agree that, to aspire to a career, a student must first know about that career. At the time of writing, no review of primary school curricular materials in rural and remote Australia related to information inspiring students to health professions was available in the literature.
Methods:  This article reports on an analysis of all the Department of Education set curricular materials studied by rural and remote distance-education school students in years 3–7 in one Australian state. The aim was to look for content relevant to careers in the health professions.
Results:  Students are provided with very little information to help them build an image of these careers. Some of the information, provided in the students’ curricular materials, painted negative images of health professionals, especially doctors.
Conclusions:  These findings contribute to an understanding of why relatively few students from rural and remote Australia go on to become health professionals. It is exhilarating to realise these findings are modifiable, with the potential to improve future rural health workforce recruitment and retention.

Key words: Australia, career development, distance education curricular materials, health profession careers, health professionals.

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