Expanding horizons: Using virtual orientation tours to promote rural, remote and Aboriginal health

Dr Merylin Cross1, Associate Professor Tony Barnett1, Ms Sharon Dennis1

1University Of Tasmania, Newnham, Australia

Projected workforce shortages and health disparities in rural, remote and Aboriginal health are driving the political push to double the number of health science students that do rural and remote placements. However, small health services have limited capacity to field inquiries or repeatedly orientate and supervise students throughout the year, academics are often unfamiliar with particular health services and students often have misconceptions and fear the unknown.

Working in partnership with twenty rural, remote and Aboriginal health services, our team has developed a technology-mediated solution that meets the needs of all stakeholders. Our aim was to co-construct a virtual web-based orientation platform to showcase participating health services.

This paper reports the utility of virtual orientation tours from the perspectives of service providers, faculty and students. Partners and faculty that manage student placements value their consistency and flexibility. Students from any discipline or education provider can access the tours whenever convenient. Health service staff report the tours help to orientate new staff and provide a useful mechanism to field inquiries by prospective employees.

Virtual tours of health services can bridge the tyrannies of distance and bring practice settings to life. They demystify unfamiliar services, attract interest in-context, allay anticipatory anxiety and begin orientation before arrival. These tours demonstrate that technology can provide an effective way for placement and education providers to expand viewers’ horizons about rural, remote and Aboriginal health, and in the process, create possibilities to recruit new staff and tell community members about the health services available.


Dr Cross has a background in nursing, nursing education, quality management and sociology. Nursing in a small rural hospital in Queensland was the catalyst for a career in rural nursing involving everything from clinician to Deputy Director of Nursing/Director of Nursing (Education). Merylin is a senior lecturer in the Centre for Rural Health at the University of Tasmania. Before that she was at Monash University during which she coordinated a four year Bachelor of Nursing and Rural Health Practice and taught face to face and by distance education in Australia and in Papua New Guinea, Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong.