The benefits and challenges of a rural community-based work-ready placement program for allied health students


Introduction: Rural and remote Australia has a shortage of allied health clinicians. The provision of quality rural placement experiences for allied health students has been a significant strategy to address these health workforce shortages. Service learning rural placements are providing allied health services in small rural towns where previously allied health services were limited or did not exist. Published literature has little detailed description of the origin or nature of particular placement programs.

Methods: An increase in Commonwealth funding for rural allied health clinical placements led to the development of an innovative service learning placement model in northern New South Wales, the Rural Community-Based Work-Ready Placement Program. During this placement, students were paired for 4–10 full-time weeks in a preschool, school or aged care facility. The program’s fundamental properties included cultural and social equity education, providing continuous service throughout the year, and quality improvement initiatives in placement sites. The program was underpinned by an interdisciplinary approach that included interdisciplinary placements, interdisciplinary supervision and a structured interdisciplinary education program.

Results: The program required investment in stakeholder engagement and in the alignment of universities’ requirements for student learning outcomes and the sites’ specific needs. Clinical supervisors had to adapt to supervising students from various disciplines and universities across several sites, towns and services. The program provided students with opportunities to work autonomously, problem-solve and to initiate and implement quality improvement projects at each site.

Conclusion: Careful selection of students, adequate preparation and management of students’ expectations were important contributors to the success of the program. Providing a continuous service is an ongoing logistical challenge.


allied health occupations, Australia, interdisciplinary placement, service learning, students

Link to Publisher Version (URL)

DOI: 10.22605/RRH5706

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