Objectives: The increase in demand for dental care over the next 10 years is expected to outstrip the supply of dental visits in Australia, resulting in an ongoing shortage of dental practitioners. As trends in medicine have shown, the greatest effect will be felt in rural and remote regions, where an undersupply of dentists already exists. It is clearly evident that it is important to provide strategies that will increase the recruitment and retention of practitioners in rural and remote areas. Previous research suggested an increased likelihood for health graduates to choose rural practice if they have a rural background, or were exposed to rural practice during their education. Short-stay (three to four weeks) placements for final-year dental students has been part of dental education in Western Australia for near on a decade.
Methods: This paper reflects on the experiences gained from managing this placement program.
Conclusions: Short-stay placements are a quality learning initiative but need a high level of planning and a clear vision to be effective.
Implications: The key factors in ensuring sustainable, student centred learning is driven through a small core group of staff who have strong direct links with rural and remote communities, students and support providers. The integration of service, education and research goals have played a critical role in sustaining placements. The philosophy underpinning the rural placements needs to be clearly articulated and applied effectively in each step of their implementation and a highly focused customer-service driven implementation is required to make short-stay rural and remote placements effective.