Factors impacting the solo remote placement experiences of undergraduate James Cook University medical students: a mixed‐methods pilot study

Lane, Angus, Woolley, Torres, Sen Gupta, Tarun, Stewart, Ruth, Hollins, Aaron, and Harte, Jane (2020) Factors impacting the solo remote placement experiences of undergraduate James Cook University medical students: a mixed‐methods pilot study. Australian Journal of Rural Health, 28 (6).

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To determine the factors impacting the experiences of James Cook University medical students on solo placements in remote towns.


This 2018 pilot study used an exploratory sequential mixed‐methods approach to explore the recent solo remote placement experiences of James Cook University medical students. Qualitative interviews were performed initially to elicit context sensitive themes for the self administered survey. The survey went on to use Likert‐scale questions in addition to pre‐validated survey instruments.


Focus groups and interviews took place at James Cook University Medical School in Townsville in late 2018 after students returned from their rural rotation. Two telephone interviews were conducted for Year 6 students unable to attend the focus groups.


James Cook University medical students in years 2, 4 and 6 students who experienced a solo placement in a remote (MMM 6 or 7) town during 2017 or 2018 were invited to be part of the study. Only Townsville‐based students were involved. A total of 14 students participated in the focus groups (n = 14) and a further 31 students completed the survey (n = 31).

Main outcome measure(s)

Interviews identified themes negatively or positively impacting solo remote placement experience, while bivariate analysis identified factors associated with having an ‘excellent’ overall experience.


Student interviews identified five main themes impacting student experience in remote communities: culture of the medical facility; quality and quantity of clinical experiences; quality of accommodation; placement length; and community infrastructure and services. Negative impacts could result in students experiencing social isolation. Students reporting an ‘excellent’ solo remote placement experience in the survey were more likely to have: felt very welcome in the community; felt the health staff supported them; heavily involved themselves in clinical activities; enjoyed the experiences remote communities can offer; positive rural career intentions; reported they ‘bounce back during and after life's most stressful events’; and come from a rural or remote hometown.


Solo remote placements provide medical students with opportunities to further knowledge, clinical capabilities, social experiences and careers, but can have negative aspects. However, negative aspects are often modifiable management issues or can potentially be avoided if prospective students are better informed of the challenges associated with remote communities.

Item ID: 65498
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1440-1584
Keywords: Medical education, Program evaluation, Rural and remote education, Rural workfoce development, Undergraduate teaching
Copyright Information: © 2020 National Rural Health Alliance Ltd
Date Deposited: 25 Jan 2021 04:29
FoR Codes: 39 EDUCATION > 3901 Curriculum and pedagogy > 390110 Medicine, nursing and health curriculum and pedagogy @ 100%
SEO Codes: 93 EDUCATION AND TRAINING > 9305 Education and Training Systems > 930502 Management of Education and Training Systems @ 100%
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