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Review Article

Factors influencing occupational therapy studentsí perceptions of rural and remote practice

Submitted: 4 September 2008
Revised: 15 January 2009
Published: 13 March 2009

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Author(s) : McAuliffe T, Barnett F.

Citation: McAuliffe T, Barnett F.  Factors influencing occupational therapy studentsí perceptions of rural and remote practice. Rural and Remote Health 9: 1078. (Online) 2009. Available: http://www.rrh.org.au

ABSTRACT

Introduction:††There is a serious shortage of health professionals in rural and remote areas in Australia and world wide. The purpose of this article was to add to existing information about allied health students, particularly occupational therapy students, and rural and remote practice by reviewing the literature on occupational therapy studentsí perceptions of rural and remote practice. A variety of influencing factors were identified, as were the main characteristics of rural practice in relation to the future employment of students. The effect of undergraduate rural training programs on studentsí perceptions was identified.
Literature review:††The shortage of rural and remote health practitioners is well documented. Because rural and remote practice is characterised by a diversity of healthcare needs, rural health professionals need a variety of knowledge and skills. This diversity may attract rural health professionals and encourages undergraduate students to consider rural and remote practice. A studentís rural background was reported to be one of the strongest factors in their decision to work rurally, and an undergraduate rural program is one useful strategy to overcome the rural health professional shortage. Undergraduate rural programs promote studentsí positive perceptions of rural and remote practice by exposure to a rural location, and factors such as rural fieldwork experience and fieldwork supervisors are likely to be influential. Negative influential factors include a studentís desire to work as a Ďspecialistí, and personal, social and professional factors, such as a lack of professional development opportunities in a rural setting.
Conclusions:††The relationship between a studentís rural background and the likelihood of working in a rural area is evident. However, few studies have examined the influence of the undergraduate programís subjects. Further studies should explore the influence of a studentís perceptions of the undergraduate rural program on their decision to work in a rural setting

Key words:††allied health student, occupational therapy student, rural and remote practice, studentsí perceptions, undergraduate rural curriculum.

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