A systematic literature review of undergraduate clinical placements in underserved areas

Paul E S Crampton, John C McLachlan, Jan C Illing

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


CONTEXT: The delivery of undergraduate clinical education in underserved areas is increasing in various contexts across the world in response to local workforce needs. A collective understanding of the impact of these placements is lacking. Previous reviews have often taken a positivist approach by only looking at outcome measures. This review addresses the question: What are the strengths and weaknesses for medical students and supervisors of community placements in underserved areas?

METHODS: A systematic literature review was carried out by database searching, citation searching, pearl growing, reference list checking and use of own literature. The databases included MEDLINE, EMBASE, PsycINFO, Web of Science and ERIC. The search terms used were combinations and variations of four key concepts exploring general practitioner (GP) primary care, medical students, placements and location characteristics. The papers were analysed using a textual narrative synthesis.

FINDINGS: The initial search identified 4923 results. After the removal of duplicates and the screening of titles and abstracts, 185 met the inclusion criteria. These full articles were obtained and assessed for their relevance to the research question; 54 were then included in the final review. Four main categories were identified: student performance, student perceptions, career pathways and supervisor experiences.

CONCLUSIONS: This review reflects the emergent qualitative data as well as the quantitative data used to assess initiatives. Underserved area placements have produced many beneficial implications for students, supervisors and the community. There is a growing amount of evidence regarding rural, underserved areas, but little in relation to inner city, deprived areas, and none in the UK.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)969-78
Number of pages10
JournalMedical Education
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2013

Bibliographical note

© John Wiley & Sons Ltd 2013.


  • Career Choice
  • Clinical Clerkship
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate
  • Humans
  • Medically Underserved Area
  • Physicians
  • Rural Population
  • Students, Medical/psychology

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