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Immersive placement experiences promote rural intent in allied health students of urban and rural origin

Authors Wolfgang R, Wakely L, Smith T, Burrows J, Little A, Brown LJ

Received 14 May 2019

Accepted for publication 26 July 2019

Published 23 August 2019 Volume 2019:12 Pages 699—710


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 3

Editor who approved publication: Dr Scott Fraser

Rebecca Wolfgang,1 Luke Wakely,1 Tony Smith,2 Julie Burrows,1 Alexandra Little,1 Leanne J Brown1

1Tamworth Education Centre, University of Newcastle Department of Rural Health, Tamworth, NSW 2340, Australia; 2Manning Education Centre, University of Newcastle Department of Rural Health, Taree, NSW 2430, Australia

Correspondence: Rebecca Wolfgang
Tamworth Education Centre, University of Newcastle Department of Rural Health, 114-148 Johnston Street, Tamworth, NSW 2340, Australia
Tel +61 26 755 3515
Fax +61 26 761 2355
Email [email protected]

Introduction: Pre-vocational placement experiences are known to considerably influence the career preferences of health graduates and are a key factor in growing the rural allied health workforce. This paper explores the rural placement experiences and future work intentions of students who attended a placement with the University of Newcastle Department of Rural Health.
Methods: Part of a larger longitudinal mixed methods study of students’ placement experiences and subsequent career choices, this study explored students’ placement evaluations responses. Following each placement, students were invited to complete an online survey which asked about their placement experiences and future work intentions. Counts and proportion tests were performed for frequencies of quantitative variables. Wilcoxon signed rank tests were conducted on the paired pre- and post-rural intent scores to determine any perceived differences in intent before and after placement for students both with and without a rural background. Qualitative data from short answer questions were analyzed thematically guided by qualitative content analysis. Data were comparatively analyzed for students of a rural or urban background.
Results: Four hundred and forty end of placement surveys were completed by 275 students (response rate 69.8%). There was a positive shift in intention to work rurally for students of both rural and urban background post-placement, but this was only statistically significant in the group from an urban background (p≤0.001). From the qualitative analysis three themes emerged: immersed rural supported placement experience, immersed interaction in rural life with other students, and immersed interaction in the rural community. Students from both rural and urban backgrounds indicated similar benefits and challenges.
Conclusion: While the positive impact of rural placement experiences and rural background on future rural practice is well known, this study highlights the importance of positive supported placement experience for students from both rural and urban backgrounds.

Keywords: rural health services, student placements, mixed method, career intentions, Australia

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