Medical students encouraged to work in rural areas

A shortage of medical practitioners is a problem facing many rural and remote communities across Australia.

In an effort to draw more medical graduates to the country, 120 first year students from the University of Notre Dame’s Sydney campus came to Lithgow on Wednesday to learn more about “the joy of practising in a rural location”.

"It's a way of introducing them to the idea that they might consider practising in a rural location because it's such a great career choice," said Associate Professor Joe McGirr, Notre Dame’s Associate Dean of rural schools.

The rural conference held at Lithgow Clinical School has been running for ten years.

All first year students study at Notre Dame's campus in Darlingurst in Sydney with the majority being from metropolitan areas.

The first years were taken on a tour of Lithgow hospital by fourth year students currently studying in Lithgow and head of Lithgow Clinical School, Associate Professor John Dearin.

"That's always a highlight for them and the Lithgow hospital I have to say is an impressive district hospital with a wide range of services, excellent staff, they're always interested in that," Prof. McGirr said.

"I guess for many of them it's one of their first introductions to a real-life rural hospital."

The students were also given the opportunity to have a look at the mines rescue centre.

"They get to experience what it's like to be in a mine but they also get instruction on aspects of mine safety and work health and safety and I think that's all an important part of their work as doctors."

Keynote speaker, Professor Jennifer May AM spoke on “making a difference to the health of rural communities”.

The vast majority of Notre Dame students will complete four weeks of work placement in rural areas in either Lithgow, Wagga Wagga or Ballarat.

Around a quarter will complete a full year of placement in a rural location.

Prof. McGirr said the rural conference and placements have been successful in attracting graduates to settle in the country.

"Particularly the students who have spent time in our rural clinical schools, nearly a third of those will end up in rural practice."

"For example this year seven Notre Dame graduates are at Wagga in their intern year."