Rural placements needed

A recent study has highlighted the importance of bringing medical students to the Eyre Peninsula as part of long-term doctor recruitment strategies.

A Flinders University study into medical student placements found expanding full-year rural Longitudinal Integrated Clerkships (LICs) could attract more medical practitioners to work rurally later in their career.

The research, conducted in Victoria, showed rural LIC placements were strongly associated with graduates working in smaller regional and rural areas when coupled with additional rural training.

Wudinna general practitioner and Northern Eyre Peninsula Health Alliance member Dr Scott Lewis knows first-hand the value of rurally based education as a recipient of a John Flynn Scholarship, which gave him the opportunity to undertake two months of work experience in Wudinna over a four-year period during his education.

Dr Lewis said the opportunity to develop a long-term relationship with the area helped him see a future career in the town.

"Ultimately that's exactly what lead me back," he said.

Dr Lewis said the study showed students who spent a year on a rural LIC alone were no more likely to end up working in the country, and that it was the additional rural training before and after the year-long placement that made the difference.

He said some metropolitan based students chose to undertake rural LICs for educational purposes rather than interest in a rural career.

He said he believed the positive outcomes for students who also undertook additional rural training showed the importance of maintaining the rural connection over multiple years.

"It suggests to me... it's about the continuity of a relationship with rural areas," he said.

"They're getting comfortable in the environment and getting used to it."

Dr Lewis said the best way to attract students to rural areas was through an integrated pathway that provided access to rural experience from the moment a student began medical school right through their education.

"South Australia's really lagged behind on a lot of this," he said.

Dr Lewis said the National Rural Generalist Pathway would be part of the way forward, and investment was needed to provide opportunities for medical students to develop relationships with rural areas through long term programs.

While Adelaide universities provide opportunities for students to gain experience in the country, he said there was work to be done on developing long term, integrated pathways.

"Those opportunities really aren't there as yet," Dr Lewis said.