North West NSW Regional Training Hub

The North West NSW Regional Training Hub provides information and advice on rural medicine career pathways.

Medical students, graduates, doctors and supervisors interested in a rural medicine career can seek support from our highly skilled academic and administration teams based at Tamworth, Armidale and Taree.

Regional Training Hubs, 27 in total, were established across Australia as a component of the Integrated Rural Training Pipeline for Medicine, implemented through the Rural Health Multidisciplinary Training (RHMT) program at existing RHMT program training sites. The North West NSW Regional Training Hub is managed by the University of Newcastle Department of Rural Health and funded by the Australian Government.

The Regional Training Hubs' objectives are to:

How to become a rural doctor

The North West NSW Regional Training Hub connects you with support, advice and training along your rural medical career journey. Select an option below to find out what assistance and requirements exist at each step.

Download an overview of the rural practice journey in New England North West (PDF).

Your journey to becoming a rural doctor starts with undergraduate study, usually one to six years, depending on the university.

Internships in rural hospitals are increasingly popular, offering great learning opportunities and high-quality supervision and mentorship for junior doctors. Any rural experience during undergraduate training will give you an edge when applying for one of these highly sought-after positions in NSW through Rural Preferential Recruitment (RPR).

What support is available to you?

The Department of Rural Health facilitates rural placements for medicine students in Tamworth, Taree and Armidale. You will have access to subsidised accommodation, academic support and on-site, state-of-the-art facilities.

Students also have many opportunities to engage in health promotion within their local community, and work closely with a wide range of allied health providers. This unique situation gives many rurally trained students a distinct advantage in their later careers.

An internship is a one-year period following completion of university training where a medical graduate undergoes supervised clinical training within an accredited hospital.

Interns have been granted provisional registration with the Medical Board of Australia and will gain full registration on successful completion of their intern year. In general, interns are required to complete 47 weeks of clinical training, which excludes time taken off for sick or annual leave.

Most hospitals operate with five rotation blocks throughout the year for interns, while some may have four. Each rotation ranges between 10 to 12 weeks in duration.

What support is available to you?

Completing training as a junior doctor in a rural area is becoming increasingly popular, and for good reason.

Rural junior medical officers (JMOs) enjoy an incredibly supportive environment for their first years as a doctor, from a team that includes consultants, trainee doctors, allied health staff and students and hospital support staff.

Rural hospitals also offer an extremely broad range of learning opportunities, giving junior trainees a strong base from which to follow their chosen career paths.

Rural Preferential Recruitment (RPR) is a merit-based recruitment process that allocates medical graduates to internship positions in rural NSW. Rural hospitals will have allocated positions for RPR pathway applicants, ensuring that applicants with an interest in rural health are given the best opportunities to train.

Helpful websites and resources:

You become a resident medical officer (RMO) after completing your internship year – generally in the Post Graduate Year 2 (PGY2).

Usually, RMOs continue to work in the same training hospital where internship was completed. RMOs work within a hospital for a year or more before specialising.

After successful completion of internship and residency, many doctors begin to work towards a specialist training pathway. This can be through applying to become a registrar of a specialist college, or by pursuing further general training as a senior resident medical officer (SRMO).

Most rural training hospitals can provide further training positions for SRMOs and registrars who have an interest in rural medicine.

What support is available to you?

The Regional Training Hub can facilitate support and career advice from specialists in a wide range of disciplines to assist RMOs in preparing to apply for a specialty program. Applying to a college can be a complex process; a mentor who can assist with choosing terms, upskilling and preparing for interviews can be invaluable.

While most specialty training programs commence after completion of the RMO year, rural generalist training can begin during the RMO year. For junior doctors wishing to train as a rural generalist in NSW, we can provide advice on how to enter the Foundation Year program in PGY2 through the Health Education and Training Institute. In NSW, you will need to apply for this year at the end of your internship.

Some specialties, such as psychiatry, also provide early entry to the program for rural training which can commence in the RMO year.

After completion of internship and residency, most junior doctors start to work towards a more defined medical career, choosing an area of specialty in which to train.

For some, this is very specific, while others continue to undertake more general training in a more defined area (for example critical care).

To become a registrar, junior doctors must apply to, and be accepted for training, by the college of their choice. Most specialty training programs can provide training opportunities in both metropolitan and rural areas, including but not limited to: physician training, surgery, paediatrics, critical care, psychiatry and obstetrics/gynaecology.

General practice training can be completed entirely in rural communities, and some specialties, such as emergency medicine, can be largely undertaken in many rural hospitals.

For those who want the best of both worlds, rural generalist training can be completed entirely in a rural area. This pathway includes training in both general practice, as well as an area of specialised procedural skill such as anaesthetics or obstetrics.

Rural generalism is a great option for doctors who have a wide range of interests and don’t want to ‘give up’ any of these areas of medicine.

Read more about rural generalist training.

What support is available to you?

The NSW Rural Generalist Medical Training Program helps junior doctors become procedural general practitioners in rural and regional areas.

It takes four years to complete the program:

  • Year one as a junior medical officer (foundation year – earliest entry into program, from RMO year on)
  • Year two in a large regional public hospital for advanced skills training
  • Years three and four focusing on further skills training (transition and consolidation) while completing community general practice in rural areas with procedural hospitals

Successful applications are provided with a wide range of support, including education sessions (both face-to-face and online), career advice and opportunities for advanced skills training.

The Regional Training Hub can help connect junior doctors to mentors and advisors who can assist with choosing a career path and making a successful application to that speciality. Many junior doctors find it very helpful to speak to their colleagues who have completed training and gain some insight into whether that career path might suit them too.

This is the stage you’ve been working so hard to achieve! Working as a rural doctor brings immense rewards and career satisfaction, and plenty of opportunities to continue your professional development as you advance in your career.

Rural Australia needs all kinds of doctors, including specialists and generalists. Doctors with all skill sets can enjoy the benefits of living and working in rural Australia.

GPs can enjoy the incredibly diverse mix of patients seeking day-to-day care, while continuing to work in their areas of special interest. Rural generalists can work in both the hospital environment and the general practice clinic, maintaining a wide set of skills that are critical to a rural community’s health. Specialists can run a thriving practice that includes both inpatient hospital work and private clinics.

Rural doctors come in all forms, and all skills and services that they bring are highly valued by the people of rural Australia.

Rural doctors also benefit from the ability to balance a fulfilling career with a wonderful lifestyle outside of work.

Watch Josh’s video to find out what it’s like to pursue a career in rural medicine.

Helpful websites and resources:

Video: Josh's story, Joint Medical Program
Video: Rachel's story, Joint Medical Program

The University of Newcastle acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands within our footprint areas: Awabakal, Darkinjung, Biripai, Worimi, Wonnarua, and Eora Nations. We also pay respect to the wisdom of our Elders past and present.