This thesis provides a longitudinal workforce assessment of dental graduates who participated in a one month Rural Clinical Placement Program (RCPP) at the University of Sydney (USYD), which provided supervised clinical care in rural clinics, as a strategy to encourage dental students to consider rural employment.
The first objective was to critically appraise the literature on rural outreach programs related to employment outcomes in Dentistry and Medicine. The second was to provide a local New South Wales (NSW) example of the rural-urban division in oral health outcomes; whilst the third was to report on the workforce outcomes of USYD dental graduates over almost a decade, to investigate factors which would impact on employment choices. The fourth objective was to explore the influence of the RCPP on graduates’ employment over time, and the program factors that appear to be driving its success. The fifth objective was to explore the broad issues that impact graduates’ workforce decisions, and the final objective was to compare the USYD RCPP with a recently established Rural Clinical School (Charles Sturt University), in terms of employment outcomes.
The research in this thesis applied a mixed methods approach to data collection, with the use of written questionnaires and semi-structured interviews over time.
The findings of the collective studies show that the USYD RCPP provides a valuable experience that left a lasting impression on the graduates, with many reporting it as the highlight of their dental training, as well as influencing them in their employment decisions. The workforce data shows a positive association of the RCPP with rural employment, and key rural predictors were reported as ‘pre-placement rural intentions’ and ‘prior rural experiences’. Both the USYD RCPP and the CSU program demonstrate positive outcomes in attracting and supporting dental practitioners to work in rural areas of Australia.