Preparing to complete a rural placement

rural placement preparation

Prepare early for the best placement experience

The logistics surrounding completing a rural clinical placement can be a little daunting if you don’t prepare, especially if you are unfamiliar with the region.

You don’t want to find out the day before that you can’t commute there as the placement is 3 hours drive away and you don’t have accommodation.

So what should you do to prepare for your rural placement? And who is there to help?

1. Who has been there before?

Find out if anyone you know (or your university can put you in contact with) who has completed a placement in the location you are going to. They will have information that is invaluable from a student perspective.

2. Placement site information

Find out about your placement organisation. Does their website have student placement information? Is there pre-placement information to read? Who is your placement contact?

Contacting your supervisor before the placement starts is a good idea. Find out about work hours, dress code, facilities, other students who will be on site, what you need to take with you, and what is expected of you.

3. Getting there are getting around

How will you get there, and how will you get around once you arrive? How long will it take? Will you need to arrive the day before your placement starts?

Consider carpooling with other students who are going to the same site if possible, for safety and minimising transport costs.

Many rural areas have limited public transport. Find out what is available. How will you get from your accommodation site to your placement site? Think about walking distances, cycling or taxis. Most rural areas don’t have Uber.

In summer months, check prior to leaving that there are no bushfires on the way to, at, or near your destination. You may need to change your planned route.

In winter months check for black ice warnings when there is frost, as the roads can be slippery. You may need to leave yourself more time to travel.

Watch for animals on the roads, especially at dawn and dusk – avoid driving at these times if possible. If you can’t avoid it, SLOW DOWN.

See the Going Rural Health website for more country driving tips and links, in the ‘Student Rural Driving Safety’ drop down section here.

4. Accommodation

Where will you stay while on placement? This is often a worry for students on rural placements. Here are the most commonly used options:


5. Student Support

There is support available to students completing a rural placement in Victoria.

Going Rural Health (GRH) is a Commonwealth funded program that supports nursing and allied health students from any university to complete rural placements in the Ballarat and Grampians, Shepparton and Goulburn Valley, and Wangaratta and Hume regions (see the map here for details). Support includes:

RWAV (Rural Workforce Agency of Victoria) also has information on scholarships available to students to enable them to complete rural placements. See RWAV Scholarships and Grants for details.

For Monash UDRH regions (Gippsland, including East Gippsland, Loddon-Mallee regions including Mildura, Swan Hill, Bendigo), contact Monash via this link: Monash support

For placements in south-west Victoria, Deakin University can offer support. See this page for details: Deakin support

NOTE: students can only access funding from one organisation for their placement. If you receive placement funding from from an organisation you cannot access funding for your placement from another organisation.

6. Local community

Find out a little about the local community and the town you will be staying in.

Use the internet to find out about population, climate, regional characteristics and local attractions.

Think about your interests. Do you like the gym and organised sports? Find a local gym or local sporting club. Movies? Find a local cinema (bear in mind they may not be in every town).

Manage your expectations. Banks and shopping centres probably won’t have the same opening hours as the city. Mobile coverage on some networks may be patchy. Internet speeds will be slower. Don’t expect all of the usual takeaway franchises (such as McDonald’s and KFC) to be in every town. In smaller towns there may be few restaurants open at night. 

Download a town map so you know how to get around.

7. Family and friends

Rural placements are great but you may experience some homesickness, especially if you haven’t lived away from home before. Missing friends and family is is perfectly natural.

Ensure you have a plan to stay in touch with family and friends. Use what technology you have available – often mobile internet speeds are quicker than wifi or local internet speeds. Have enough data to allow you to use eg Facebook (Facetime), Skype and emails to stay in touch.

8. Cultural Awareness

Rural communities are culturally diverse – each area has its own identity.

Be flexible, sensitive, respectful of difference and non-judgemental and you will develop good relationships with people in the community on your placement.

Find out if there is Indigenous cultural training available in your region. It is helpful if you complete this prior to your placement. Going Rural Health runs this training in Ballarat, Shepparton and Wangaratta. For dates and to book see our events page here . RWAV (Rural Workforce Agency of Victoria) also usually runs this training a few times a year. See their website at for details.

For more information about Going Rural Health student support contact (03) 8344 6791, email  or visit the Going Rural Health website student information tab.

Trish Thorpe

Associate Lecturer, Rural Placement Co-ordinator

Going Rural Health Ballarat

Clinical Biochemist/Medical Scientist & Teacher