Friday, 19 May 2017 12:14

More trainee doctors for rural practices

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The University of Auckland says it wants to place more medical students in rural GP practices for longer periods of time. The University of Auckland says it wants to place more medical students in rural GP practices for longer periods of time.

The University of Auckland says it wants to place more medical students in rural GP practices for longer periods of time.

This follows the successful expansion of its medical student placements into regional and rural centres.

A growing number of University of Auckland medical students are spending a year completely immersed in a regional community, experiencing its unique health issues, challenges and how its hospitals work.

The University of Auckland's medical programme leader Professor Warwick Bagg says the next step is to increase student placements into rural GP practices.

“The University is significantly expanding its infrastructure and staffing in regional hospitals, which will make it easier for students to spend time in smaller towns,” Bagg says.

“We know that training our future doctors for longitudinal periods in rural practices and small rural hospitals will enhance the likelihood of graduates choosing to work in those areas so we have placed a high priority on this.”

This year a record 256 medical students are completing year-long study placements in regional hospitals, 128 of these at Waikato Hospital. In 2018 more than 280 students will be placed in a regional DHB in the northern half of the North Island. Nearly all University of Auckland medical students spend part of their time in a regional or rural general practice.

The biggest challenge facing the expansion of rural placements is finding GPs who have the physical space and availability to supervise students.

“The University of Auckland is doing more regional hospital placements combined with short term rural placements than ever before,” Bagg says.

“We are ideally placed to expand this to more rural GPs and in turn, increase the numbers of highly trained medical graduates with the desire to work in regional and rural New Zealand.”

University of Auckland students at regional hospitals are supervised by doctors who are also academic members of staff. They are supplied with IT infrastructure and videoconferencing facilities to remain connected with University departments.

Most of the University’s investment in medical staffing has been outside of Auckland over the last five to eight years, and significant expansion has occurred in its clinical sites at Whangarei, Tauranga, Rotorua and Taranaki Hospitals, and its rural training hubs in Whakatane and Northland. It plans to expand its Taranaki presence in 2018.

The University has also worked closely with local communities, DHBs and iwi to create meaningful learning opportunities for its students in regional and rural health.

Head of the Bay of Plenty Clinical Site at Tauranga Hospital, Professor Peter Gilling, says students who complete regional and rural placements gain an increased awareness of the benefits and challenges of working rurally, and more willingness to work in a rural area.


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