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Securing a rural health workforce for the next generation of rural Australians

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The value of investing in advancing rural training pathways should not be forgotten

The establishment of rural-based academic networks in health was a key initiative of the incoming federal Coalition government in 1996 to help overcome the shortage of medical and other health professionals in rural and remote Australia. University departments of rural health1 were initially established in medical schools to increase the capacity of rural health services to provide high-quality education and clinical training of students from multiple disciplines, and support the delivery of clinical services to communities. In a second phase of development from 1999, the addition of rural clinical schools expanded the network to provide at least 1 year of clinical training for 25% of Australian medical students in a rural community.

Now, 18 years on, rural Australia has access to an unprecedented network of 28 academic departments invested in clinical training. This represents a substantial footprint across each state and the Northern Territory. The rural academic network delivers rural-based clinical training in both hospital and community settings for more than 5500 medical, nursing and allied health students annually and includes access to interprofessional learning and simulation training. In some university departments of rural health and rural clinical schools, there are opportunities for students to contribute…