Associate Professor Peter Baker - Project Team Member
Associate Professor Peter Baker - Project Team Member
Category 7: Educational partnerships and collaborations with other organisations

An Integrated Package of Innovative Rural Medical Education: Enhancing Student Outcomes and Increasing the Rural Medical Workforce

Organisational Unit: School of Medicine – Rural Clinical Division

Project Team:
Dr Diann Eley, Dr Louise Young, Associate Professor Peter Baker, Professor David Wilkinson

Through its Rural Clinical Division, the School of Medicine has developed an integrated package of innovative medical education which aims to enhance student outcomes in the rural curriculum and improve rural medical workforce recruitment and retention. The School has built on the basic eight-week rural rotation to develop a highly-regarded year-long program with the aim of producing capable, patient-centred medical graduates who perform well in assessment and regard their rural undergraduate training as fulfilling, enjoyable and of the highest quality.

A number of educational innovations have been introduced through the use of inter-professional study programs, IT and placement opportunities. In promoting and supporting inter-professional education and a community-wide focus, the package addresses a major limitation of traditional practicum placements for health professionals and emphasises the collaborative nature of rural practice.

A trial of the Leichhardt Community Attachment Placement project assigned three students with preceptors to small Central Queensland towns where they experienced an immersion program of generalist rural medicine. They developed interpersonal patient and procedural skills, improved confidence to practise independently and a greater understanding of rural medicine. All three are now completing internships in rural locations.

The Clinical Discussion Board (CDB) and Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) project represent innovations which have optimised the application of contemporary information and IT in healthcare. The web-based CDB allows students at all rural locations to discuss their experiences and clinical issues with one another. It encourages a community of learners with potential for building the professional networks and relationships so essential in the relative isolation of rural practice. In highlighting clinical issues and student concerns the CDB also offers direction to future curriculum change. By enabling students to access reference materials as the need arises, PDAs provide an immediate learning experience and a valued service in remote area medicine. Students wholeheartedly support this service, believing it improves their organisational skills, study techniques and work efficiency.

The Rural Clinical Division has achieved excellent outcomes from the integrated rural package. Its success is evidenced by enhanced academic outcomes, high quality teaching evaluations, the increase in demand for places and the positive impact on the rural medical workforce.

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