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La Trobe Rural Health School students flock to health courses

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As Bendigo hosts rural health leaders from across the country this week to discuss critical rural heath workforce challenges, the La Trobe Rural Health School has revealed that more regional students than ever are flocking to its health courses.

La Trobe Rural Health School and Monash Rural Health are hosting Australia’s 19 rural health schools as part of the Australian Rural Health Education Network (ARHEN) board meeting.

Rural origin student enrolments across the La Trobe Rural Health School have jumped nine per cent in 12 months, with 76 per cent of students coming from a rural or regional area compared to 67 per cent in 2022. Nursing, in particular, has a very high rate of rural origin students, at 92 per cent.

The University’s prestigious dentistry program has seen rural enrolments increase 52 per cent in four years, from nine per cent up to 61 per cent in 2023.

Dean of the La Trobe Rural Health School, Professor Jane Mills, said the strong regional enrolment figures have resulted from one of the School’s key strategies for addressing rural workforce shortages.

“We know that students who were born and raised in rural and regional areas are far more likely to stay on in those areas after they graduate, and build their careers in the country,” Professor Mills said.

“We’ve worked hard to ensure the vast majority of students studying a wide range of health courses – including nursing, midwifery, dentistry, social work, occupational therapy, paramedicine and physiotherapy – at the La Trobe Rural Health School are originally from a rural or regional area.”

Professor Mills said La Trobe Rural Health School uses several strategies to build a pipeline of health professionals for regional communities.

“Firstly, we work closely regional schools and community groups to promote opportunities in rural healthcare, ensuring young people hear from students, graduates and practitioners first-hand about what life in the field is like and how rewarding it can be to give back to your community,” Professor Mills said.

“We also build real-world skills in rural healthcare through simulations and innovative programs that have an explicit focus on the health needs of rural communities.

“And finally, we partner with rural healthcare providers to provide rural placements to students, ensuring they get the skills, connections and confidence they need to be job-ready,” Professor Mills said.

Professor Mills welcomed rural health leaders to Bendigo, and said strengthening ties with rural health schools across the country is fundamental to meeting a national workforce challenge for rural communities.

“We are delighted to focus on the issues facing rural health – and the role of innovation in shaping solutions – by co-hosting Australia’s 19 rural health schools right here in Bendigo,” Professor Mills said.