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Rural Remote Health. 2012;12(2):1951. Epub 2012 Apr 17.

Medical students on long-term regional and rural placements: what is the financial cost to supervisors?

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Community Based Health Education, Graduate School of Medicine, University of Wollongong, New South Wales, Australia.



Medical student education is perceived as utilising significant amounts of preceptors' time, negatively impacting on clinical productivity. Most studies have examined short-term student rotations in urban settings, limiting their generalisability to other settings and educational models. To test Worley and Kitto's hypothetical model which proposed a 'turning point' when students become financially beneficial, this study triangulated practice financial data with the perspectives of clinical supervisors before and after regional/rural longitudinal integrated community-based placements.


Gross practice financial data were compared before and during the year-long placement. Interview data pre- and post-placement were analysed by two researchers who concurred on emergent themes and categories.


This study suggested a financial 'turning point' of 1-2 months when the student became beneficial to the practice. Most preceptors (66%) perceived the longitudinal placement as financially neutral or favourable. Nineteen per cent of supervisors reported a negative financial impact, some attributing this to reduced patient throughput, inadequacy of the government teaching subsidy and/or time spent on assessment preparation. Other supervisors were unconcerned about costs, perceiving that minor financial loss was outweighed by personal satisfaction. CONCLUISONS: Senior students learning in long-term clerkships are legitimate members of regional/rural communities of practice. These students can be cost-neutral or have a small positive financial impact on the practice within a few months. Further financial impact research should include consideration of different models of supervisor teaching subsidies. The ultimate financial benefit of a model may lie in the recruitment and retention of much-needed regional and rural practitioners.

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