Is clinical experience and enjoyment enough for dental students on a rural clinical placement? – ADOHTA 2021

Is clinical experience and enjoyment enough for dental students on a rural clinical placement?

Caroline Koedyk1, Julie Satur1, Brett Vaughan2

1Melbourne Dental School , The University of Melbourne, Australia, 2The University of Melbourne, Australia,

Objectives: Melbourne Dental School’s (MDS) rural dental clinical placement program operates in two Victorian rural areas and offers final year dental students an integrated program of practical clinical experience and rural lifestyle exposure. The objective of this study was to understand the student’s experiences to determine whether they increased the likelihood of them seeking rural employment after graduation.

Setting: Rural clinical dental placements at Goulburn Valley Health and Latrobe Community Health Service.

Participants: Final year Dentistry and Oral Health students.

Design: The University of Melbourne final year dental students attended 5-week mandatory rural clinical placements in 2018 and 2019. At the completion of their placement, students were invited to complete an anonymous questionnaire about their experiences, which had both quantitative and qualitative questions. This study examined the qualitative data using thematic analysis to identify common themes.

Results: Of the 129 students who completed the survey, 116 completed the open-ended questions and four themes were identified. Rich clinical experience; social capital; rural life and infrastructure. High levels of satisfaction were reported across all themes.

Conclusion: This study demonstrated the rural clinical program to be a positive and enjoyable placement which increased dental students’ clinical practice experience and their interest in considering rural practice upon graduation. Exposure to rural lifestyle and supportive clinical and social relationships were shown to be important influences. The current survey can benefit from refinement and further research following up MDS graduate workplace locations is recommended.

Keywords:  clinical exposure, dental workforce, recruitment, rural lifestyle, social capital


Caroline Koedyk is a Dental Therapist and Clinical Educator at the Melbourne Dental School and also coordinates the Rural Dental Program for the school. She holds a Master of Clinical Education and is research active around oral health in rural communities which includes experience in rural Nepal. With nearly 40 years clinical experience, she has now motivated her passion to educating and training the next generation of Oral Health Therapists. Her special interest is to encourage dental students to take up Rural practice upon graduation.