Dentistry students share experiences of regional placements

Regional clinical placements are a great opportunity for uni students to experience new communities.  They offer students the chance to develop their hands-on skills, whilst forming close bonds with their fellow students.  As 2020 comes to a close, five La Trobe Dentistry students reflect on their time in Mildura.

Claire Hammond had never visited Mildura before undertaking her clinical placement within Sunraysia Community Health Services’ dental clinic.

‘Moving to Mildura was my first time visiting the area.  It is approximately a nine and a half hours drive from my family home - I am from Woodglen which is a small farming area in East Gippsland.

‘My first impression of Mildura was that it was similar to other regional towns I had visited but the climate was much hotter!   Everyone has been so nice and welcoming, which made the transition much easier.’

La Trobe University’s Bachelor of Dental Science students undertake placements across the state, within teaching clinics in Bendigo, Mildura, Ballarat, Melton and Wodonga.  Every year Sunraysia Community Health Services supports dentistry students’ clinical placements.  La Trobe also has four homes in Mildura for students to stay while on placement.

‘In my experience, placements in regional Victoria create a great opportunity for personal growth, development of strong friendships and clinical experience.   Many people I know who do placement in these areas, really enjoy it and choose to work in a regional area following graduation,’ Claire says.

Jennifer Tran agrees, having been born and bred in Adelaide, she didn’t know what to expect when going on placement regionally.

‘I really enjoyed my time in Mildura. I had originally thought that I was a ‘city girl’ but having been here for the year has brought a different perspective.  Mildura is a very charming and peaceful town. There are a variety of activities to do on the weekend and is only a short drive to South Australia.’

La Trobe University Head of Dentistry and Oral Health, Associate Professor Rachel Martin, commenced with the University in February and visited the students in Mildura.  She is a passionate believer in universal access to healthcare and in integrated healthcare education.

‘Rural and remote health services do not have enough trained health professionals to actually meet the overwhelming need for oral health care and prevention in these areas. That’s why I’ve come to the La Trobe Rural Health School. I see the opportunity to make a difference to the health and wellbeing of our communities across regional Victoria – there is so much we can achieve together.’

Dr Donna Mercado, Director of Dental Services at Sunraysia Community Health Services, says students add value to the dental service provided at the clinic.

‘They make a substantial contribution to the clinic’s productivity, especially towards the end of their rotation when they have become proficient in their clinical skills.  By then, they are well and truly ready to become registered dentists.

‘Patients also love seeing the students and they often bring gifts for the students as a token of their thanks!  Beyond the service, patients are aware and appreciate the high standard of care that the students provide, with the emphasis on quality over quantity.’

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