What do dental students value about their rural placements-Is clinical experience enough?

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Australian Journal of Rural Health, 2021, 29, (5), pp. 670-677
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Objectives Melbourne Dental School’s (MDS) rural dental clinical placement program operates in two Victorian rural areas and offers final year dental students an integrated program of practical clinical experience and rural lifestyle exposure. The objective of this study was to understand the student’s experiences to determine whether they increased the likelihood of them seeking rural employment after graduation. Design The University of Melbourne final year dental students attended 5-week mandatory rural clinical placements in 2018 and 2019. At the completion of their placement, students were invited to complete an anonymous questionnaire about their experiences, which had both quantitative and qualitative questions. This study examined the qualitative data using thematic analysis to identify common themes. Setting Rural clinical dental placements at Goulburn Valley Health and Latrobe Community Health Service. Participants Final year dentistry and oral health students. Interventions Clinical placement evaluation questionnaire. Main outcome measures To examine dental students interest in rural practicepost rural clinical placement. Results Of the 129 students who completed the survey, 116 completed the open-ended questions and four themes were identified. Rich clinical experience; social capital; rural life and infrastructure. High levels of satisfaction were reported across all themes. Conclusion This study demonstrated the rural clinical program to be a positive and enjoyable placement which increased dental students’ clinical practice experience and their interest in considering rural practice upon graduation. Exposure to rural lifestyle and supportive clinical and social relationships were shown to be important influences. The current survey can benefit from refinement and further research following up MDS graduate workplace locations is recommended.
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