Medical student well-being during rural clinical placement: A cross-sectional national survey



Publication Details

Saikal, A., Pit, S. W. & McCarthy, L. (2020). Medical student well-being during rural clinical placement: A cross-sectional national survey. Medical Education, 54 (6), 547-558.


Understanding rural student well-being is essential to inform the development and training of the future rural medical workforce so as to ensure a pipeline of rural doctors to meet rural communities' needs. However, little is known about the well-being of students who are on rural placement. This study aims to identify the predictors of well-being amongst a national sample of medical students on rural clinical placement. Methods: The Federation of Rural Australian Medical Educators (FRAME) 2015 national exit survey of medical students, completed at the end of rural terms, was used (n = 644) to test the associations between well-being and demographic, financial, academic, supervisor, placement and clinical skills factors, and attitude to future rural work. Univariate and logistic regression were used. Results: Students aged 18-24 years (odds ratio [OR], 8.07 [95% confidence interval {CI}, 2.07-31.46]) and 25-34 years (OR, 4.06 [95% CI, 1.35-12.18]) reported higher levels of well-being compared to students aged over 35 years. Academic support from the rural clinical school (OR, 5.74 [95% CI, 2.59-12.73]), perceived respect from supervisors (OR, 3.13 [95% CI, 1.23-7.99]), not feeling socially isolated (OR, 2.7 [95% CI, 1.40-5.20]), access to counselling services (OR, 2.05 [95% CI, 1.10-3.83]), rural placement being a first choice (OR, 3.04 [95% CI, 1.58-5.86]) and positive attitudes to being part of a rural workforce in the future (OR, 4.0 [95% CI, 2.0-8.3]) were associated with higher odds of well-being compared to students who felt the opposite. Gender, rural background, financial support, clinical skills and role clarity were not found to be associated with well-being (P >.5). Conclusions: This study may provide guidance to rural clinical schools, policymakers and medical educators in developing rural placement programmes that enhance student well-being so we can address workforce shortages in rural areas.

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