News

The Rural Placement Program



14 April 2011

The Rural Placement Program

In 2008-2009, the University of Sydney, Faculty of Dentistry implemented a scheme to provide dental undergraduates an experience of providing clinical care in rural clinics, as a way of encouraging them to join country dental practices once they had qualified. Thus began the Rural Placement Program.

32 (40%) BDent 4 students volunteered to take part in the Rural Program with students spending one month in one of three rural locations, Bowral, Bathurst and Orange. Students spent four days a week offering clinical care to rural patients and one day was for academic study and for visiting local general dental practitioners.

The program was evaluated by the Department of Population Oral Health in order to use the information to enhance the program by identifying its strengths and weaknesses and measuring how the placements affected the students' intent to work in a rural location.

Pre and post placement questionnaires were provided to students who volunteered for the rural program and also to the non-volunteer students who did not go rural. A report was presented in 2010 to DOHA on the Rural Placement Program. Recently two papers based on the report have been accepted for publication.

1) Johnson G & Blinkhorn A: 'Assessment of a dental rural teaching program' in the 'European Journal of Dentistry' and focuses on the clinical skills acquired by the students upon completion of their rural placement.

The main findings:-

  • Restorative care, acute care and dental extractions were the most common clinical procedures.
  • Students saw more patients per day in the rural practices than at the dental school clinics.
  • Rural students increased in their confidence, time management and diagnosis skills and showed a significant greater improvement in their self perceived clinical skills than the students who did not go on a rural placement.

2) Johnson G & Blinkhorn A: "Student opinions on a rural placement program in New South Wales" in the "Journal of Rural and Remote Health." The paper focuses on the students' general views of the rural program and the effect the placement program had on the students' intentions to work in a rural location after graduation.

The main findings:-

  • The students' main concerns were missing lectures, clinical quotas and being away from the University for one month.
  • The Clinical Supervisors were excellent and their professionalism and dedication were integral to the success of the program.
  • 97% of student rural volunteers post placement said they were considering working in a rural location after graduation compared to 57% pre placement, demonstrating the significant positive effect the program had on the students' rural intentions.
  • All the students who went on a rural placement would recommend the Rural Placement Program to future students.

The Rural Placement Program was introduced by the University of Sydney as an attempt to provide an interesting outplacement experience for students that was clinically effective and provided them with a positive experience of rural working life. The placement was a great success and had a very positive effect on the students' clinical confidence and capabilities, thus providing an excellent educational experience which also enhanced positive attitudes towards working in a rural location.

Bathurst Dental Clinic
Bathurst Dental Clinic

Dr Tom Hasson with the final year students & staff. Orange
Dr Tom Hasson with the final year students & staff. Orange

Bowral's Clinical Supervisor Dr Sally Clark with final year students & clinic staff
Bowral's Clinical Supervisor Dr Sally Clark with final year students & clinic staff


Contact: Denise Fischer

Phone: 02 9351 8334