University Centre for Rural Health | NSW Northern Rivers
Where we have come from
The University Centre for Rural Health | NSW Northern Rivers (UCRH) was founded in 2001 as a result of the foresight and goodwill of local leadership and the regional Health Service, which together identified the benefits of developing a rural health workforce agenda. The UCRH was built on the foundation University of Sydney’s Northern Rivers University Department of Rural Health an initiative established over a decade ago by Sydney University and our region’s Southern Cross University and the then North Coast Area Health Service (now Northern NSW Local Health District).
The Universities of Wollongong and Western Sydney joined The University of Sydney in 2007 to place “long stay” medical students in addition to our shorter stay students from a range of disciplines including medicine. This major collaboration by the new two universities and the established University Department of Rural Health has greatly expanded the medical education and other opportunities in the NSW Northern Rivers area.
From the original inception of our department we have assisted a range of undergraduate students from across the health disciplines to undertake placement across the area’s hospitals, GP practices and primary health care settings for a range of time from a few weeks to nearly a year. This has been possible because of funding provided by the Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing.
Where we are now
Currently around 700 students from a variety of health disciplines and universities including students from our core partners are now placed by the UCRH’s active education unit. We have campuses in Lismore, Murwillumbah and Grafton, and place students in all of these locations. While Murwillumbah and Grafton are smaller in size than the Lismore campus and have fewer students, they also have excellent accommodation and teaching facilities, including the latest simulation equipment to support our education program.
While education is our major focus we have gained a national and international reputation for our research. Our research priorities are rural health services, public health and rural workforce, with Aboriginal health, maternity care, chronic disease, environmental and mental health running through these topics. UCRH researchers have been highly successful in gaining NHMRC and ARC grants. We also supervise around 12 postgraduate research students and provide methodological support to rural practitioners in their research.
Another major activity is to provide continuing professional education for local clinicians. We undertake approximately 21,510 hours of training hours of this work annually. Since the advent of our simulation facilities this involvement has increased, and we are actively reaching out to those in Aged Care, General Practice and other fields to help with routine skilling updates, or in some cases expansion of service.
Where we are going
In a relatively short period of time, the UCRH has established a reputation for educational excellence and research relevance in the regional, national and international health care environments. We have assisted health professional students from across Australia to add value to their academic training through professionally supervised placements in diverse health settings – from the area’s regional hospitals to its outlying district facilities or clinics, general practice and community, and the Aboriginal Medical Services which provide excellent services for their own people.
We are heartened by the positive feedback received from the many dedicated clinicians who are helping train the next generation of health professionals, and from the students themselves who find living and training in the NSW Northern Rivers a series of rewarding professional and social experiences.
Whether you are an undergraduate in a clinical degree program or a qualified, even highly experienced, local clinician, we invite you to contact us to discuss clinical placements, professional learning or skills updating using our simulation facilities, or to engage with one or more of our research team.
We hope to have the opportunity of welcoming you to the UCRH family.
Lesley Barclay AO
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