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Considerations for orientation to rural and remote settings

General principles of student orientation and placement preparation apply in a rural and remote setting.  Additionally, orientation should inform the student about the service, the local community and facilities, local transport, the expectations of the placement (e.g. uniform, workplace specific policies) and mandatory requirements.  

Some examples of orientation manuals specific to rural and remote settings:

Placement details

It is important that clinical supervisors liaise with the student ahead of placement start to confirm:

  • The dates of your placement
  • Travel to the placement, and any rules/guidelines around driving to and from placement.  Consider also maps, routes, unsealed roads, and suitability of the vehicle
  • First day details - time, location
  • Accommodation
  • Workload requirements (for example:  if you are full time/part time, travel time to outreach services, impact of travel and outreach on access to face to face supervision)
  • Resources and equipment that the student will be provided with, and the resources and equipment they will need to pack with them
  • University placement documentation (e.g., assessment, clinical hours documentation)
  • Access to technology while on placement

Knowing about the community you are going to

The health issues may differ in rural, regional and remote areas. It will be helpful to have provide the student with some information about the community they are going to and the ‘lay of the land’.

  • What the community is like.
  • Where they can source information about the community (shire, tourist information centre etc)?
  • What are the clinical services available in the community or surrounding areas?
  • What are the priority health issues for the community?
  • Are there any support services in the community? If so, what are they and how accessible are they?

 

Involvement and engagement in the community

To complete a rural or remote placement, a student has usually moved away from friends, family and university support networks. This can result in feelings of loneliness and may impact on their engagement in the placement. Webster et al. (2010) examined undergraduate nursing students’ experience in a rural placement and found that as students got involved in the community their feelings of social isolation and homesickness lessened. 

There are many ways to make a student feel welcome and supported. If possible meet the student when they arrive and take them to their accommodation. Some other strategies are:

  • take the student on a tour of the town so they know where the supermarket and other local facilities are
  • an invitation to social functions with the staff and community
  • introduce the student to other students on placement at the same time
  • provide information about local facilities (e.g. pool, library, sporting groups)
  • information about church services – times and social groups
  • information about upcoming social events      

References:

  • Government of Western Australia Department of Health (2010).  Allied Health Rural Student Placement Orientation Guide (Pre-Placement).  WA Country Health Service, Perth.
  • Mount Isa Centre for Rural and Remote Health (2011).  Student Orientation Manual: Code of conduct and placement rules for visiting students.
  • National Rural Health Student Network (2011).  Rural Placements Guide: How to make the most of your rural placement rural placement guide.  NRHSN, Melbourne. 
  • Australian Health Ministers Advisory Council (AHMAC) Rural Health Standing Committee (2012). The National Strategic Framework for Rural and Remote Health (2012). Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra.
  • Government of Western Australia Department of Health (2010).  Allied Health Rural Student Placement Orientation Guide (Pre-Placement). WA Country Health Service, Perth.
  • Liaw, S. & Kilpatrick, S. (Eds.). (2008). A textbook of Australian Rural Health. Australian Rural Health Education Network, Canberra.
  • Mount Isa Centre for Rural and Remote Health (2011). Student Orientation Manual: Code of conduct and placement rules for visiting students.
  • National Rural Health Student Network (2011). Rural Placements Guide:How to make the most of your rural placement rural placement guide.  NRHSN, Melbourne. 
  • Webster, S., Lopez, V., Allnut, J.,Clague, L.,  Jones, D. & Bennet, P. (2010). Undergraduate nursing students’ experiences in a rural clinical placement. Australian Journal of rural Health, 18 (5), 194-198.

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