A return-on-investment analysis of impacts on James Cook University medical students and rural workforce resulting from participation in extended rural placements

Woolley, Torres, Gupta, Tarun Sen, Stewart, Rurh A, and Hollins, Aaron (2021) A return-on-investment analysis of impacts on James Cook University medical students and rural workforce resulting from participation in extended rural placements. Rural and Remote Health, 21 (4).

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Abstract

Introduction: Although all medical students at James Cook University (JCU), Queensland, Australia, undertake rural placements throughout their course, a proportion (currently about 20 per year out of 170-190 final-year students) undertake extended rural placements in rural and remote towns - 5-month Integrated Rural Placement (IRP) or 10-month Longitudinal Integrated Clerkship (LIC) programs. This study uses a return-on-investment (ROI) approach to quantify student and rural medical workforce benefits arising from these 'extended placements' between 2012 and 2018.

Methods: Seventy-two JCU MBBS graduates participated in extended rural placements between 2012 and 2018. In 2019, 46 of these graduates who had reached at least postgraduate year 2 and provided consent to be contacted for health workforce research were emailed a link to an online survey. Questions explored the key benefits to students' development of competencies and to rural medical workforce as a direct result of student participation in the IRP/LIC activities, as well as estimations of costs to students, deadweight (how much change would have occurred without participating in an extended placement), and attribution (how much change was due to other programs or experiences). The key student and rural medical workforce benefits were each assigned a 'financial proxy' to allow calculation of ROI from 2013 to 2019 as a dollar value, compared with the costs to students and to the JCU medical school from implementing the IRP/LIC programs between 2012 and 2018.

Results: Twenty-five of the 46 JCU medical graduates who undertook an extended placement responded (response rate 54%), reporting that the most common (96%) and most important benefit (56%) from their extended placement was 'greater depth and breadth of clinical skills'. Seventy-five percent (18/24; one missing response for this question) of the respondents also reported intending to have a full-time career in rural and remote practice. The overall cost of undertaking an IRP or LIC program for students between 2012 and 2018 was calculated to be $60,264, while the cost to the JCU medical school for sending 72 students out on extended rural placements was calculated as $32,560, giving total costs of $92,824. Given the total value of benefits ($705,827) calculated for the key student benefit of increased clinical skills and confidence in the internship year from participating in an extended placement ($32,197) and for the key rural medical workforce benefit of willingness to work in a rural or remote town ($673,630), the ROI from the extended rural programs between 2013 and 2019 (after students graduated and entered the workforce) is calculated at $7.60 for every dollar spent.

Conclusion: This study confirms that undertaking an extended placement has significant positive impacts on final-year medical students' clinical confidence, clinical skills and communication skills into their internship year. In addition, the extended placements have longer-term impacts on the non-metropolitan health workforce by inspiring more JCU medical graduates to take up rural generalist, rural general practitioner or generalist specialist positions in rural and remote towns. This positive ROI from extended rural placements is important evidence for shifting the conversation around supporting these programs from one of cost to one of value.

Item ID: 70970
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1445-6354
Copyright Information: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Licence
Date Deposited: 01 Dec 2021 00:41
FoR Codes: 39 EDUCATION > 3901 Curriculum and pedagogy > 390110 Medicine, nursing and health curriculum and pedagogy @ 100%
SEO Codes: 16 EDUCATION AND TRAINING > 1601 Learner and learning > 160102 Higher education @ 100%
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