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Educ Prim Care. 2017 Aug 7:1-6. doi: 10.1080/14739879.2017.1362664. [Epub ahead of print]

'Knowledge leech' to 'part of the team': students' learning in rural communities of practice.

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a Keele School of Medicine , Keele University , Keele , UK.



Keele Medical School has a small accommodation hub for students placed within ten associated general practices in a predominantly rural area of England. Groups of up to eleven final year students spend fifteen weeks learning generic and transferable clinical skills in these practices.


To explore the evolving perceptions on students on their experiences throughout their placements.


All ten students placed at the hub between August and December 2013 were invited to participate in focus groups in weeks zero, seven, and fifteen. Analysis was qualitative and thematic.


Ten, five and eight students chose to participate in successive focus groups. Five themes were identified from the data; acceptance, learning opportunities, relationships, development, and injustice with a subtheme of isolation.


The placements had a powerful impact on students' learning and development. Their perceptions changed from seeing themselves as 'knowledge leeches' to legitimate contributors to health care over the course of fifteen weeks. They did not recognise that managing perceived adversity led to personal development. This illustrates the need to both identify perceived adversity and explicitly signpost and scaffold life learning. The students described experiences which challenged them intellectually and offered them opportunities to recognise the breadth and complexity of general practice.


Primary care; community based medical education; undergraduate medical students

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