Developing a student-led health and wellbeing clinic in an underserved community: Collaborative learning, health outcomes and cost savings

Cynthia M Stuhlmiller, Barry Tolchard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Citations (Scopus)


The University of New England (UNE), Australia decided to develop innovative placement opportunities for its increasing numbers of nursing students. Extensive community and stakeholder consultation determined that a community centre in rural New South Wales was the welcomed site of the student-led clinic because it fit the goals of the project—to increase access to health care services in an underserved area while providing service learning for students.

Supported by a grant from Health Workforce Australia and in partnership with several community organisations, UNE established a student-led clinic in a disadvantaged community using an engaged scholarship approach which joins academic service learning with community based action research. The clinic was managed and run by the students, who were supervised by university staff and worked in collaboration with residents and local health and community services.

Local families, many of whom were Indigenous Australians, received increased access to culturally appropriate health services. In the first year, the clinic increased from a one day per week to a three day per week service and offered over 1000 occasions of care and involved 1500 additional community members in health promotion activities. This has led to improved health outcomes for the community and cost savings to the health service estimated to be $430,000. The students learned from members of the community and community members learned from the students, in a collaborative process. Community members benefited from access to drop in help that was self-determined.

The model of developing student-led community health and wellbeing clinics in underserved communities not only fulfils the local, State Government, Federal Government and international health reform agenda but it also represents good value for money. It offers free health services in a disadvantaged community, thereby improving overall health and wellbeing. The student-led clinic is an invaluable and sustainable link between students, health care professionals, community based organisations, the university, and the community. The community benefits from the clinic by learning to self-manage health and wellbeing issues. The benefits for students are that they gain practical experience in an interdisciplinary setting and through exposure to a community with unique and severe needs.
Original languageEnglish
Article number32
Number of pages8
JournalBMC Nursing
Publication statusPublished - 14 May 2015
Externally publishedYes


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