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Medical Students

The RCSWA program

An opportunity to experience rural medicine while studying

As a medical student from the University of Western Australia, University of Notre Dame or Curtin University, you have the opportunity to undertake a 12-month program at one of 15 RCSWA sites around the state. You will be taught and assessed to the same rigorous standards as city-based students but you will receive valuable practical experience, medical mentorship and community engagement. 

Why go rural?

RCSWA students receive both breadth and depth of clinical exposure during their studies. As rural communities have fewer medical students and junior doctors, RCSWA students are involved in a wide range of patient presentations, clinical situations, and community visits. Rural medicine is highly varied and patients present with a variety of clinical conditions that you may not come across in a metropolitan area. These varied and interesting patient presentations allow for a more hands-on experience.

RCSWA students experience significant one-on-one time with their clinical supervisors - rural doctors and health professionals are passionate about supporting the next generation of doctors. In addition to this, many rural medical professionals work across different settings such as general practice, emergency department, surgery and outreach visits. This allows RCSWA students the opportunity to witness medicine practiced in many different environments.

RCSWA students are warmly welcomed by local health professionals and communities. Students live within their host town and generally become involved in a range of community activities, including sport, arts, community, and volunteer groups.

Living and working in rural locations gives you the opportunity to truly become part of the community. You really get to know people and appreciate the full experience of their lives, with continuity of care being one of the most rewarding parts of the job. Through this experience, students come to understand how needed and appreciated they are within a community.

As a RCSWA student, you get the opportunity to discover a new town and experience unique places, meet interesting people and see how rural communities live and learn within their surroundings.

One of the great aspects of living in a new rural location is the countryside. Discover local treasures like historic buildings, significant landmarks, great walking tracks, beautiful parks or beaches and much more! Exploring your regional town and surrounds will enhance your RCSWA year and take your understanding of rural life to a new level. 

Hear from our students

Fraser Pensini
Fraser Pensini, Narrogin 2021
Katie Baronie Shaw
Katie Baronie Shaw, Albany 2021
Seth McKenna
Seth McKenna, Karratha 2021

What to expect

  • Teaching & Learning

    RCSWA teaching and learning is student-centred and our medical coordinators work with students to establish learning objectives and a pathway to achieve their academic goals. Our medical coordinators are all experienced medical practitioners from the local region. They are passionate educators, committed to sharing their skills and knowledge with the next generation of rural doctors.

  • Course Activities

    Extended patient contact is core to the RCSWA program, with a variety of practice locations at RCSWA sites. Students’ clinical experience may include:

    • The local health service/hospital service with local general practitioners, nurses and midwives, allied health teams and visiting specialists
    • General Practices
    • Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations, (Aboriginal Medical Services) and other primary care outreach clinics
    • Royal Flying Doctor Service
    • Population Health Units and other community-based health services
    • Service providers including schools, government department and non-government organisations
  • Accommodation

    Accommodation is provided for single students at no charge. Students with partners are eligible for a bursary to assist with the costs of accommodation, outgoings, storage or relocation.

  • Extracurricular & Cultural Activities

    Each RCSWA site has its own unique character and cultural experience. Check out the individual site pages to see what each has to offer: RCSWA Locations

I’ve developed strong connections with people who are similarly passionate about rural medicine. I’ve learnt so much from my incredible mentor and am bound to learn much more from all the medical coordinators and clinical supervisors in the region over the coming year.
Katherine Baronie Shaw
3rd year University of Notre Dame medical student in RCSWA Albany

When to apply

Medical students from University of Western Australia, University of Notre Dame and Curtin University are eligible to apply for the RCSWA program:

University of Western Australia & University of Notre Dame
Apply in the second year of your MD degree to undertake the RCSWA program the following year.

Curtin University
Apply in the third year of your MBBS degree to undertake the RCSWA program the following year.

Application process

If you are interested in applying for the RCSWA program, your first step is to attend the information session held each year in May. In this session, you will learn more about the enriching experience while hearing from RCSWA teaching staff and students. Applications open after this event.

Applications are submitted via the RCSWA online application portal and involve collecting personal details and placement preferences. Applications are due around late May. Late applications will not be accepted.

To find out detailed information about the unique features for each of our sites, head to our RCSWA locations page.

Student interviews are held two weeks after the applications close, in mid-June. Conducted in a multiple mini interview format, you will be interviewed by various staff members, of whom each will ask you a question. The entire interview will take approximately 30 minutes.

Notification of the outcome of your application will be sent out at the end of June, successful or otherwise. Your offer will show the names of the other students offered at the same site. We do not negotiate on sites. You can either accept or decline the offer. If declined, we offer to the next highest ranked student on the reserve list.


  • What Is the difference between rural and metro general practice?

    General practice in both rural and metropolitan settings deal with totality of the human life and health experience. As a primary health service, GPs provide cradle to grave care for all patients. The difference between rural and metro general practice is the impact of the rural setting. Rural GPs are geographically more remote from secondary and tertiary health care services. They may literally be the only available health service to their community. Rural GPs will deal with a greater complexity of problems and draw on a wider set of skills. They deliver babies, care for dying patients and may be the voice of public health messages for their community. They may do all these things in a single working day. Rural GP is general practice on steroids.

  • Do I get to choose my placement?
    Placement preferences are submitted at the time of application. Placements are decided separately to the interview. The highest ranked students from each university are put into a separate pool where all students are considered equal, i.e. there is no preferential placement offered to students who ranked higher in the interview. You will be asked to decide whether it is more important that you are placed in the highest ranked site on your list or whether you would prefer to be placed with one or two of your colleagues.
  • Will my accommodation be covered?

    Penultimate student accommodation is provided by RCSWA and is home for students during their RCSWA year. At times, Rural GP Placement (RGPP) students may stay in this accommodation while they are in the region on placement. All RCSWA houses are fully equipped and furnished, and have internet available.  

    No pets are permitted in the RCSWA housing at any time. There are no exceptions to this rule.

  • Am I eligible for any financial assistance?

    The RCSWA covers some travel costs during your RCSWA year. This includes your trip to site from Perth at the start of the year, your trip back to Perth from site at the end of the year, and one return trip between Perth and your site for the mid-year break. 

    Students who are undergoing financial hardship may be able to apply for a Hardship Bursary.

  • Can my partner or family join me for my placement?

    RCSWA welcomes students with partners and families. Students are offered placements based on their merit -  their partner or family status are not considered during the application assessment process.

    Students with a partner or family joining them must find their own accommodation.

    Students can apply for a bursary payment of:

    • $6,000 at beginning of year + $1,000 at end of year for students placed from Geraldton south
    • $7,000 at beginning of year + $1,000 at end of year for students placed from Carnarvon north.

    If your partner is another medical student and you are both offered the same site, you will have the choice of accepting the living arrangements we make for you or accepting the bursary to provide your own accommodation. Students with partners will not be housed together.

    We advise you to investigate the availability and costs of accommodation at your preferred sites before submitting your preferences.

  • What rural opportunities exist after the year long program?

    After spending a penultimate year at RCSWA, you can apply to complete your final year with us. Information about the Final Year program can be found in the section below.

    Once you have graduated from your medical degree, other rural opportunities exist with WA Country Health Service (WACHS). WACHS offers graduates 12 month Intern Placements and 6-12 month Resident Medical Officers (RMO’s) Placements. For information about these two positions within WACHS please refer to their flyer.

Complete your final year with us

The Final Year medical program was established in 2019 in response to student requests to continue their clinical experience at a rural site. Launching with four students based in Bunbury, there are now more than 20 students across five sites. Students who embark on a two-year placement have demonstrated a significant personal commitment to rural medicine. They report finding the training opportunities appropriate to their expectations for their future careers and enjoy the familiarity and close teaching relationships they form from in their first RCSWA year.
  • How do I get into the RCSWA Final Year Program?

    To be eligible for the program, you must first successfully completed your penultimate year with RCSWA. Your demonstrated ability to work independently, demonstrate rural intent, engagement with rural communities and capacity to self-fund are among the factors considered for entry into the program. Reference checks are also sought from your Medical Coordinator, clinical supervisor and the site administrative officer. It is highly competitive and places are limited.

  • Are there any costs associated with the Final Year RCSWA program?

    Yes. This is a self-funded program. You must cover your living expenses for the duration of the academic year and sign a statutory declaration stating you can do this. RCSWA does cover travel and relocation expenses to and from your rural site. Your travel expenses within the region for educational purposes are also covered.

  • Is accommodation available at a rural site for Final Year medical students?

    Accommodation in rural areas is in very short supply. RCSWA has secured housing at most Final Year rural sites which you are able to access. There is a rental cost associated with this option. Alternatively, you can make your own private accommodation arrangements. Be advised you need to sort this out as soon as you have been accepted into the program. Sites can provide some assistance in letting you know what is available for rent in the area.

  • What are the benefits of doing a Final Year medical program with RCSWA?

    This is a longitudinal one-year placement where you work closely with a clinical team to refine your skills and prepare you for internship. You will have the opportunity to learn in variety of contexts in the region – remote clinics, RFDS and many more, with the support and mentorship of your Medical Coordinator, the whole RCSWA team and the community you work with.

    Options to pursue a rural career pathway will expand to reflect the increasing availability of rural internships. In the first three years of the RCSWA rural Final Year program, 65% of the students involved signed up for rural internships.

  • Which Universities can be involved with the Final Year medical program?

    Students from The University of Western Australia and the University of Notre Dame are eligible to join the Final Year program in 2023. There is no quota on numbers from each university. You will be selected on merit and availability of places.

  • What is the Final Year medical program with RCSWA really like?

    There is an online information evening held around June each year to showcase the major features of the program. Current Final Year students will be there to give you a ‘real’ perspective. You are required to complete all the curriculum and assessment requirements of your home university – you will just be in a rural area to do them with the exception of end of year exams.

  • When can I apply for the RCSWA Final Year Program?

    After the information evening in June, students are given a week to complete their online application. Interviews take place towards the end of July and places are offered in early September. We appreciate this is a big commitment and we will try to let you know as soon as possible if your application has been successful.

    Associate Professor Michele Gawlinski is the RCSWA Final Year Program Coordinator located at SCGH (Level 2, M Block). Michele can give you details or put you in touch with the lead Medical Coordinators at each Final Year rural site, email [email protected]

Rural General Practice Placements (RGPP)

Metropolitan final year UWA, Notre Dame and Curtin students and RCSWA Final Year students are granted the opportunity to ‘go rural’ during the last year of their MD or MBBS degree. This is a fantastic opportunity for metro students to get a taste of rural medicine, and for RCSWA students to experience a variety of rural settings. Students will be contacted ahead of their Rural GP rotation by the RGPP administration team who will organise this placement for them.

Rural Clinical Elective Placements

The Rural Clinical School of Western Australia oversees the placement of medical students in rural WA towns for rural clinical elective placements. These placements occur during set timeframes throughout the year. 

Please visit our application portal for the current placement periods:  Rural Clinical Elective portal

To apply for a Rural Health West Elective Scholarship valued at up to $2,000, please read and complete this formPlease note the scholarship eligibility criteria on Page 1 of the document.

For any elective queries, please email [email protected].

Get in touch

Let's Chat

Call the RCSWA Administrative Headquarters from 8.30am to 5.00pm (Western Standard Time):

Email us

Email your enquiry to:

Visit us

Our headquarters are located at Kalgoorlie Regional Hospital, St Alban's Road, Kalgoorlie

Or you can visit the UWA School of Medicine in Perth

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