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Students want mental health training

A national peak body representing rural health students has outlined an action plan for the future of rural health in Australia.

Rural health students have called for mental health training to be made a compulsory part of undergraduate health education.

The National Rural Health Students’ Network (NRHSN) representing more than 9000 nursing, medical and allied health students said high course contact hours and clinical placement requirements placed students at increased risk of reduced mental health.

In a priorities paper presented to the Minister for Health in Canberra last week, the peak body said all health students should be required to undertake mental health training to stimulate resilience and coping strategies in young people.

Student body representatives, who also met with representatives from all of the major parties and key independents, called for further research into the specific mental health challenges faced by students. To begin to address this issue, the NRHSN has developed a student-specific mental health guide with beyondblue.

The action plan also said Australia should make use of its short-term oversupply of graduate nurses and midwives by investing in regional and rural placements. “More health graduates are available to fill the rural and remote workforce shortage. However, graduate training positions have not been made available in these areas.”

To increase the number of health graduates working in rural and regional Australia, the peak body recommended setting a target of enrolling one in three health students from a rural background, which is proportionate to the number of Australians living in these areas.

Medical schools across Australia’s universities are currently required to meet a 25 per cent target for their rural student intake but this ratio is yet to be extended to nursing and allied health courses.

Nursing students make up approximately 15 per cent of the members of the national network.

To read the full policy paper see: www.nrhsn.org.au

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