Value-adding to health professional student placement experiences: Enhancing work readiness and employability through a rural community engagement program

Karin Fisher, Tony Smith, Leanne Brown, Luke Wakely, Alex Little, Katrina Wakely, Judith Hudson, Kelly Squires

Abstract


Enriching health professional students’ placement experiences through targeted community-engagement has the potential to help develop their preparedness to provide healthcare to the broader community. The program, developed in 2011, consisted of short, extracurricular community-engaged learning experiences integrated with the students’ professional placements. The aim of this study was to investigate whether the program was adding to the students’ rural health placement experiences based on perceptions of both the students themselves and UONDRH staff.

A mixed methods approach used a student survey (n = 96), which included both closed and open-ended questions, and semi-structured interviews with staff members involved in delivery of the community engagement program (n = 15). Data were explored together for intersections and commonalities. The overarching key concept was ‘Enhancing Work Readiness and Employability’. Both student and staff perceived that students’ participation in community engagement improved their employment prospects. Three themes that emerged from the data, which underpinned and supported the key concept. They were: ‘Expanding professional practice capabilities’; ‘Building confidence and showing motivation’ and ‘Better understanding the nature of rural practice’,  

The results of this study provide support to the notion that there was value for students in this form of short-term, community engagement activities, many of which could be readily integrated into existing health professional education programs with considerable benefits. . It would also lend itself to other non-health professional programs, such as law, journalism or business studies, as a means of broadening the students’ perspectives beyond the limits of their own professional horizons.

Keywords


Graduate attributes; Rural health; Undergraduate education; Workforce; Work integrated learning; Professional placements

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References

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.21153/jtlge2018vol9no1art698

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