How do we address the constant revolving door of doctors and medical staff in rural areas?
Experienced medical educator Dr Damien Limberger is working with Charles Sturt University to address this concern.
A pioneering five year bachelor's degree at CSU's Rural School of Medicine has launched the ambitious target of achieving a minimum 80 per cent enrolment of rural students wanting to study medicine.
Dr Limberger is behind the program's goals. Having worked in Griffith, in NSW's Riverina, as the head of UNSW's Rural Clinical School training future doctors, he understands the barriers rural students face in considering a future in medicine.
"We can't get and keep doctors rurally and this is attempting to address that need by training and developing local students," Dr Limberger said.
"Medicine is an expensive program and if you have to live in Sydney it's cost prohibitive to students who are maybe coming off of farms or from areas of disadvantage.
"The headquarters is in Orange but we will be sending students to rural based hospitals and district hospitals and remote locations throughout NSW, including hopefully Griffith."
Dr Limberger has worked extensively with students, doctors and specialists in rural medicine and he understands there are a number of key areas that make a difference in addressing the country workforce shortage in doctors.
"People from a rural background are more likely to stay rural long term as doctors. Having opportunity to study in a rural location during a medicine program improves the chances of you staying and the longer you spend rurally the greater the chance of you staying there," Dr Limberger said.
"The goal is to produce doctors that understand rural health needs and we obviously want them to work as rural doctors long term."
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The program is about to accept its inaugural intake with it's first group of students beginning in March 2021 however having already had 800 applicants for the course, Dr Limberger feels confident they are on the right track.
"We have had 800 high quality applicants. They all have the right skills to take on medicine but it seems to be the logistics and the cost and travel combination that is prohibitive," he said.
"What's going to be the point of difference for our program is that our students will be connected to a rural community throughout the duration of their five years.
"The students will have the opportunity to keep coming back to that rural community repeatedly so they are building connections and a network. We are giving them the opportunity to feel settled somewhere."