The career possibilities within rural medicine

August 10, 2016


In 2006 – 2007, the National Rural Health Alliance reported a deficit of $2.1 billion in medical services in rural Australia. Communities in remote locations across the country are in desperate need of medical care and attention – and as an aspiring healthcare professional, you might like to use your skills to reduce this deficit for future generations.

Rural doctors can be placed under a lot of stress. They often have a much larger workload than a single doctor in the city, acting as general practitioner, first responder, and hospital medic all in one. At the same time, rural health practitioners can have a high level of job satisfaction because of the personal contact and community ethos you find within a smaller town or village.

The best way to gain an insight into what working in rural medicine entails on a day to day basis is to get some health shadowing experience.

Rural health in Australia: the facts

2.2% of Australians live in remote Australia, which equates to around 518,000 people. In everything from major diseases to oral health, remote Australians are in worse health than their neighbours in towns and cities. There are three times the number of deaths from diabetes in rural locations and double the number of suicides. It is extremely hard to receive the particular treatment you need for your condition, due to there being 80% fewer specialists available.

There is also a huge difference in the way medical emergencies are responded to. While city dwellers would expect an ambulance to arrive at the scene of an accident or injury within minutes, remote Australians can wait far longer. Some health professionals suggest that rural doctors could arrive up to 20 minutes earlier to an emergency than an ambulance can, and want to involve them more in emergency situations within their communities.

However, these doctors are in short supply. Even med students that have lived or trained in rural areas tend to gravitate towards the city because of better job variety and better pay.

How our placements can help aspiring rural doctors

While the medical skills required to practise in remote locations are the same as in any other part of the country, working in rural medicine is a unique experience. Our community health work experience placements in Tanzania and the Dominican Republic could give you the insight you need to pursue this career path.

In Tanzania: for those wishing to travel to East Africa, students can spend a week on Mafia Island. As well as spending some time shadowing health professionals in the Mafia District hospital, students on this program have the chance to help deliver basic healthcare to those on the islands surrounding Mafia who cannot always afford to travel to the main island for their health treatment.

In the Dominican Republic: from our base in La Romana, students are able to travel out to villages called ‘bateyes’ which house the Haitian sugarcane workers. These workers are entitled to healthcare in the Dominican Republic, but low wages and long hours mean that many residents can’t afford to travel to a clinic or hospital. That’s why health workers take the clinic to them instead – whilst taking a few Gap Medics students along too.


To find out more about a career in rural health in Australia, visit

Our community healthcare placements start every Sunday, 52 weeks per year. Click here to read about them in full.


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Gap Medics provides year-round hospital work experience for people aged 16 and over. Our shadowing placements offer a unique insight into the work of doctors, nurses, midwives and dentists – helping students to focus their career aspirations before embarking upon medical training.