To what extent should we cushion the realities of remote area living for young people who are seeking challenge and inspiration?

There is some evidence that exposure to good learning opportunities in rural and remote areas will influence medical students to more strongly favour rural or remote careers.1-3 Recognising the potential for this outcome, a cadre of academics and rural clinicians began a program of planning and lobbying universities and governments more than two decades ago. As a result, there has been a significant growth in rural and remote teaching facilities, with the development of rural clinical schools (RCSs) and university departments of rural health (UDRHs).4,5 The process of establishing and maintaining facilities for rural and remote medical education has required sustained effort from rural and remote educators, with the political will to undertake the programs often seeming more subject to whimsy than good planning. There have also been numerous practical challenges, some of which are reflected in the adverse student experiences outlined by Patel and colleagues in this issue of the Journal (→ Safeguard or mollycoddle? An exploratory study describing potentially harmful incidents during medical student placements in Aboriginal communities in Central Australia).6 Their findings raise genuine concerns about the adequacy of clinical supervision and organisation for remote area placements, but also provide an opportunity to consider what we expect our students to bring to, and take away from, the remote area experience.