Medical students on long-term regional and rural placements: what is the financial cost to supervisors?
Citation: Hudson JN, Weston KM, Farmer EA. Medical students on long-term regional and rural placements: what is the financial cost to supervisors? Rural and Remote Health 12: 1951. (Online) 2012. Available: http://www.rrh.org.au
Introduction: Medical student education is perceived as utilising significant amounts of preceptors’ time, negatively impacting on clinical productivity. Most studies have examined short-term student rotations in urban settings, limiting their generalisability to other settings and educational models. To test Worley and Kitto’s hypothetical model which proposed a ‘turning point’ when students become financially beneficial, this study triangulated practice financial data with the perspectives of clinical supervisors before and after regional/rural longitudinal integrated community-based placements.Key words: community-based medical education, financial cost, longitudinal integrated clerkships.
Methods: Gross practice financial data were compared before and during the year-long placement. Interview data pre- and post-placement were analysed by two researchers who concurred on emergent themes and categories.
Results: This study suggested a financial ‘turning point’ of 1–2 months when the student became beneficial to the practice. Most preceptors (66%) perceived the longitudinal placement as financially neutral or favourable. Nineteen per cent of supervisors reported a negative financial impact, some attributing this to reduced patient throughput, inadequacy of the government teaching subsidy and/or time spent on assessment preparation. Other supervisors were unconcerned about costs, perceiving that minor financial loss was outweighed by personal satisfaction.
Conclusions: Senior students learning in long-term clerkships are legitimate members of regional/rural communities of practice. These students can be cost-neutral or have a small positive financial impact on the practice within a few months. Further financial impact research should include consideration of different models of supervisor teaching subsidies. The ultimate financial benefit of a model may lie in the recruitment and retention of much-needed regional and rural practitioners.
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