Community-based medical training starts in the southern suburbs

Flinders University’s highly successful Parallel Rural Community Curriculum initiative, which provides medical students with a full year of education in the community, has arrived in the southern suburbs of Adelaide.

A regional version of the program is commencing in the Onkaparinga area in 2009, and was launched recently at the Noarlunga Hospital.

The Onkaparinga Clinical Education Program (OCEP) will see eight medical students from Flinders undertake their third year of training based at the Noarlunga Health Service and in local general practices.

Dr Linda Sweet, the OCEP’s academic coordinator, said the program ensures that Flinders is providing clinical education based on experience which more closely matches the way in which health care is now delivered to the majority of the community.

“It also stands to make an important contribution to the region’s health services,” she said.

“The need to improve services and to encourage medical recruitment in regional areas has become a Federal and State government priority, and it is well established that training both students and postgraduates in community settings increases recruitment and retention of doctors,” Dr Sweet said.

“The Onkaparinga Clinical Education Program has embraced the opportunity to build on the highly successful PRCC approach by adapting it to a regional/outer metropolitan health service environment.”

Through the program, the participating students will be provided with the opportunity to access patients at their primary presentations both in general practice and the emergency department, and will be able to follow the patients through the health care services provided in the community.

“The program makes use of an integrated approach through the involvement of community services, private specialists, allied health services, general practices, secondary and tertiary hospitals,” Dr Sweet said.

“We are confident that the success of the Flinders University programs already operating in several rural centres can be reproduced for the benefit our students and the southern region of Adelaide,” Dr Sweet said.

The Parallel Rural Curriculum Community program began in South Australia’s Riverland in 1997, and the Greater Green Triangle, the Hills Mallee Fleurieu and Barossa programs have since been added. The program won a national higher education Carrick Award in 2007 and has also been adopted as a model nationally and overseas.

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