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Rural Clinical School medical students keen for hands-on training in country medicine during year in Albany

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Rural Clinical School of WA 2023 penultimate year student intake at Albany Health Campus.
Camera IconRural Clinical School of WA 2023 penultimate year student intake at Albany Health Campus. Credit: Laurie Benson

Albany has welcomed its latest cohort of Rural Clinical School of WA medical students this week, as the program marks a record number of students undertaking rural placements.

Twelve penultimate-year students and six students in their final year of studies will join the ranks of Albany’s health services from this week, with several of the final-year students staying on in Albany from last year.

The RCSWA is a collaboration between the medical schools of the University of WA, the University of Notre Dame and Curtin University, and offers year-long rural placements for medical students in their last two years of study.

There are 15 rural sites across the State, including Albany, Broome, Geraldton, Collie and Narrogin.

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This year a record number of students are participating in the program, with 112 penultimate-year students and 20 final-year students on postings across WA.

During the students’ first day at Albany Health Campus on Wednesday, spirits were high following two induction days in which they scaled Mt Melville and visited GP practices across the city on a scavenger hunt.

Student Jessica Cant said throughout her studies she had been keen to complete a rural placement after hearing students in the years above her raving about their own experiences.

“Everyone says it’s an amazing experience,” Ms Cant said.

“A lot of us are interested in rural health, and the opportunities that you get here in Albany, or on another rural site, are so much greater than what you could get in the metropolitan area...where we can get a bit lost in the system.”

Makenzie Wilson, Jessica Cant and Naomi Jansz.
Camera IconMakenzie Wilson, Jessica Cant and Naomi Jansz. Credit: Laurie Benson

Students Makenzie Wilson and Naomi Jansz grew up in country WA, and said they were happy to return to regional living.

“I’m a country girl, I grew up in the Wheatbelt and moved to the coast near Bunbury, so I was really excited to get back to the country,” Ms Jansz said.

“I always wanted to work rurally, and this is definitely a good pathway for rural students to get a little bit of continuation through our schooling and get hands-on experience early.”

The students also have opportunities to continue working rurally after completing their studies, with 25 year-long rural intern placements offered through the WA Country Health Service each year.

Currently, around 50 per cent of RCSWA graduates complete some form of rural placement as doctors, and 25 per cent embark on long-term placements, of up to five years in rural locations.

RCSWA medical co-ordinator Brian Cunningham said the program aimed to “ignite a passion for rural medicine” in the students.

“We’ve got proven retention now in return to working in the country,” Dr Cunningham said.

“So absolutely, the whole game-plan is to grow our own Aussie-trained rural doctors.

“That’s working, but it’s a continuing program and part of a national scheme as well.”

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