Medical Students and Rural Practice

A placement in rural practice can offer all sorts of great opportunities for medical students.  As well as core general practice, it offers a chance to immerse yourself in a community, understand what medical provision means to people on an everyday level, amongst all the other trials of life.  See pathology present in a wide variety of ways, learn how to cope with uncertainty, and balancing patient requests with what is on offer – rural areas inevitably have less resources to hand than areas with higher population density.

This is the sort of doctor I wanted to be when I was a kid.

(Rural GP, Scotland)

It can be fun living in a rural area too, particularly if you have a liking for outdoor activities.  The scenery is often impressive, and hills, mountains, lochs and sea are often on your doorstep.  You’ll probably find a degree of flexibility from your student tutor: if it’s a nice day, and you don’t have a surgery booked, it’s often possible to make the most of this and put in the time with some out-of-hours or, for example, doing some community hospital work at the weekend.

Check out this video from Aberdeen University and the first year students who met up with Rural GPs in an innovative link-up project…

Formal GP placements

Scotland’s universities currently offer formal rural placements to different extents.  Currently, funding is more easily found for accommodation and travel expenses if you are studying at Aberdeen or Dundee and Glasgow.  Formal GP placements are funded teaching placements, with the opportunity to hone clinical and consultation skills under the experienced supervision of the GP team.  These are often a preferred means to experience general practice, particularly as the practice receives funding to free up time for teaching and student surgeries.

Contact your undergraduate medical office to enquire about the rural GP placements available.  Early planning is helpful, as it can sometimes alleviate problems with funding, or avoid disappointment in placement allocation if your departments knows about your requests in advance.

Here’s a couple of excellent resources to explain more about what rural general practice has to offer medical students.  Emily and Kirsty have both resulted from medical student study placements…

Medical Schools’ Information on remote & rural GP placements

Island practices offering student GP placements

Arran GP David Hogg was interviewed by some Glasgow medical students about what rural practice can offer.  Here’s the video:

Elective GP placements

There is a high demand for elective placements – it’s not uncommon for rural GP practices to have over 80 applications for just a handful of summer elective placements each year.  Elective placements tend to be a bit more relaxed and flexible, and the learning objectives are set by the student in agreement with the GP supervisor.  However, these placements are unfunded, meaning that there is less time available for teaching and student surgeries.

In a bid to meet some of the demand for rural GP electives, there are a number of programmes that have been set up to ‘match’ students with potential placements.

You can

  • find out more about the NHS Highland medical elective programme
  • consider approaching practices who already offer formal GP placements to students at your university
  • take a look at – which is hoped to feature a growing number of practices who are offering different training opportunities