Rural Clinical School of WA
Why get involved?
As a leading and competitive health education program, only 25% of eligible UWA and Notre Dame medical students can participate each year. As with city-based students, those in the program must adhere to rigorous standards and achieve at least comparable results, while gaining increased practical experience. Our students find the program enriching, both professionally and personally, with rural communities and students continually giving positive feedback on the benefits.
Students are placed at local hospitals, general practices, community and remote clinics, and Aboriginal medical centres. The curriculum you are taught will depend on where you are placed. Many students in the program get involved with local sporting teams or volunteer their time at charity organisations and emergency services. The community spirit is strong in rural regions and RCSWA program participants take advantage of these experiences.
A day in the life of a rural doctor
Students are required to participate in workshops to develop the skills needed to administer medical attention to patients. Students in Esperance take part in a Procedural Workshop which involves airway management, suturing, catheterisation, joint aspiration, digital nerve blocks, cannulation and plastering.
Students and local volunteers simulate real life crisis situations in Narrogin, including a snake bike, an accident involving a vehicle, a quad bike rollover and a chemical burn.
The day was run really well with a number of stations mirroring what we may see in the hospital. Being able to adapt to the situation and practise our first aid skills was great.Medical student talking about the rural simulated environment exercise
Record intake of medical students to help WA's remote doctor shortage
The University of Western Australia has welcomed its largest intake of students from rural Western Australia this year into its Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences which will help WA's rural doctor shortage.Read more
The clinical and practical skills and knowledge of the people who had completed RCSWA were leaps and bounds ahead of the ones who hadn’t. GP registrar, Kununurra
Busselton welcomes boost from UWA medical students
Local health services have been injected with seven fresh faces eager to learn all about regional medicine.Read more
Scholarship keeps rural health in check
UWA medical student Emily Higham, from Williams, is making her mark in WA’s rural health scene, and she hasn’t even finished her medical studies. Ms Higham won a HESTA — Rural Health Workforce Australia scholarship to attend the National Rural Health Conference in Cairns at the end of the month.Read more
Doctor of Medicine
The Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree is a four-year, full-time professional degree course. Students in their third year of this degree are eligible to apply for the RCSWA program.
When to apply
Students from UWA and Notre Dame who are undertaking the second year of the MD degree can apply for the RCSWA.
Curtin students in their third year can apply for placement to undertake the fourth year of their degree in one of 16 rural sites.
Students undergoing financial hardship may be eligible for a Hardship Bursary. The application deadline for this is mid-February each year, with a specific deadline communicated via email in January. Late applications are considered throughout the year.
Students applying for the Hardship Bursary should make an appointment with their Academic Services Officer, who will be able to provide more information on what can be reasonably accepted as hardship as well as helping source part-time work.
The RCSWA focuses its research on health issues relevant to rural and remote communities, in particular those which cannot be explored in a city environment.
We aim for real possibilities of better health outcomes within our communities that are spread across vast distances and yet connected through the School’s infrastructure and staff.
We value our strengths in research across diverse cultures, life stages and diseases. Projects include improving the quality of preventive health programs by trialling new programs and evaluating their effectiveness; improving screening for diseases by trialling new screening protocols; and improving the quality of primary health care by evaluating health services.
Our particular skills are in engaging diverse rural and Aboriginal communities with the health issues that they feel are most important, translating findings back into best care, and in building a rurally-based, broadly skilled health researcher workforce.
We foster collaborations with groups who have relevant expertise, with the expectation that our skills and community relationships will support feasible and meaningful research.
The School encourages collaborations between sites and with other rural clinical schools. The School’s researchers regularly collaborate with Kimberley Aboriginal Medical Services (KAMS), a regional Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service (ACCHS), providing a collective voice and health support for Kimberley towns and remote communities. The overarching aim of the School’s research in the Kimberley is to improve and promote the health and well-being of Aboriginal people in remote Australia through the application of practical community and health service based research.
We promote a culture of collegiality and mentorship within our School. We foster up-skilling in research of all interested medical coordinators, and collaborations between early researchers or students and those with more established careers. The School has four research hubs at Broome, Bunbury, Kalgoorlie and Albany. These hubs support smaller sites with their research in different surrounding regions.
The RCSWA supports the annual presentation of our research within the School, and at conferences and in the peer-reviewed literature.
Our research disciplines
Type 2 diabetes (T2DM) is a largely preventable disease that involves a significant burden on individuals and communities. The current obesogenic and diabetes-promoting environments have a disproportionate effect on disadvantaged groups, including the development of diabetes at a younger age. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have higher rates of T2DM than other Australians do in all age groups, with larger differences in younger age groups – a time when the onset of diabetes is associated with earlier progression to serious health complications.
Avoiding the intergenerational consequences of diabetes in pregnancy where possible is also important. Screening for gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) can potentially lead to improved obstetric outcomes for women with GDM.
- ORCHID Study: Predicting gestational diabetes mellitus in rural communities
- Prevention of type 2 diabetes amongst young Aboriginal people in Derby, Western Australia
- Kimberley Investigation and Description of type 2 Diabetes of Young-onset (KIDDY)
- Understanding lived experiences for Aboriginal people with type 2 diabetes living in remote Kimberley communities
Improving health services
The School’s research team has extensive experience in evaluating rural and remote primary health care services. By embedding research into health services and including health service providers as core members of the research team, we are better able to determine what information is required by these services to help them improve their services.
- Improving mental health screening for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander pregnant women and mothers of young children
- Accessing health care at a remote WA Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service: Pilot Study
- The NINI HELTHIWAN project: Improving Primary Care for Aboriginal mothers and babies in the Kimberley region
- Family Planning in the Western Desert
- Improving the quality of end of life care in the Great Southern region
Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is a significant health problem within Australia; accounting for almost $900 million in healthcare expenditure in 2004-05. Rates of detected CKD in remote WA continue to increase. Within Australia, rural and remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are some of the most significantly affected by CKD. This is reflected by higher incidence rates of CKD within this population, particularly end-stage kidney disease where renal replacement therapy is required to sustain life. Our kidney disease research includes looking at risk factors affecting the development of kidney disease, and evaluating health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander patients on dialysis.
I spent my RCSWA year in the Wheatbelt town of Narrogin. I had a wonderful time and found it to be a great clinical experience. Being at a small site meant there was continuity of care. I would see patients in GP, then in ED or the maternity ward and also with visiting specialists, which provided fantastic learning opportunities. The year allowed me to properly explore the role of a country GP and see just how diverse the job can be. Madeleine Gryta, RCSWA 2017, Narrogin