‘Igniting a passion’: Record number of students posted to the country through Rural Clinical School of WA

‘Igniting a passion’: Record number of students posted to the country through Rural Clinical School of WA

A record number of future doctors put their hands up to experience the country this year, with the Rural Clinical School of WA’s rural placement program attracting more than 130 students for the first time.

A total of 112 penultimate students – in their second-last year of study – and 20 final year students were posted to 15 different regional towns across WA this year, the largest number of students in the program’s 20-year history.

Albany and Bunbury were the most popular placements, with 12 penultimate students and six final year students at each, while Collie welcomed four students from the program for the first time.

Other country hospitals involved this year include Broome, Busselton, Derby, Esperance, Geraldton, Kalgoorlie, Karratha, Kununurra, Narrogin, Port Hedland and Warren Blackwood in Manjimup.

The RCSWA is a collaboration between the medical schools of the University of WA, the University of Notre Dame and Curtin University, and offers year-long rural placements for medical students in their final two years of study.

Brian Cunningham, medical co-ordinator of the RCSWA, said the program aimed to “spark a passion for rural medicine” in the students.

“We now have proven retention in return for working in the country,” Dr Cunningham said.

“So absolutely, the whole game plan is to grow our own Aussie-trained rural doctors.

“It’s working, but it’s an ongoing program and also part of a national scheme.”

About 50 percent of RCSWA graduates complete some form of rural placement as doctors, and 25 percent begin long-term placements, of up to five years in rural locations.

Camera icon Makenzie Wilson, Jessica Cant and Naomi Jansz. Credit: Laurie Benson

Spirits were high during the students’ first day at Albany Health Campus last week, after two days of induction that included scaling Mt Melville and visiting GP practices across the city on a scavenger hunt.

Student Jessica Cant said other students raved about their time spent in regionals.

“Everyone says it’s a great experience,” Ms Cant said.

“A lot of us are interested in rural health, and the opportunities you get here in Albany, or in another rural site, are so much greater than what you can get in the metropolitan area … where we can get a little lost in the system.”

Students Makenzie Wilson and Naomi Jansz grew up in country WA and said they were happy to return to regional life.

“I’m a country girl, I grew up in the Wheatbelt and moved to the coast near Bunbury, so I was really excited to get back to the country,” Ms Jansz said.

“I’ve always wanted to work in the countryside, and this is definitely a good path for rural students to get some continuation through our schooling and get some early hands-on experience.”

The students also have opportunities to continue working in the countryside after completing their studies, with 25 year-long rural internships offered each year by the WA Country Health Service.


Albany: 12 penultimate students and six final year students

Broome: 10 penultimate students and four final year students

Bunbury: 12 penultimate students and six final year students

Busselton: 10 penultimate students

Collie (new site for 2023): Four penultimate students

Derby: Three penultimate students

Esperance: Four penultimate students

Geraldton: 12 penultimate students and 4 final year students

Kalgoorlie: 12 penultimate students

Karratha: Seven penultimate students

Kununurra: Four penultimate students

Narrogin: Four penultimate students

Port Hedland: Seven students

Warren Blackwood (Bridgetown): Six penultimate students

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