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Remote experience will open your eyes
Occupational Therapy student Natasha Clegg had no idea what to expect when she undertook a remote placement. Having completed it, she now believes everyone attaining an allied health degree should have this experience.
I have lived in the same city in Far North Queensland my whole life and was somewhat sheltered from life for people living in remote Australia. My home town has a population of roughly 200,000. Just to compare, the location I was sent to was Weipa, a coastal mining town 634 km inland from Cairns, with a population of roughly 4,000. Moving to this remote town for two months to complete my placement was an experience I will never forget.
After completing this placement, I believe that anyone attaining an allied health degree should experience a remote placement. All placements offer unique insights and fantastic learning experiences. However, if you are like me and come from a suburban background, your knowledge of remote life might be lacking. Therefore, it is important that every student improves their knowledge by having hands-on experience. This is my view. The experience will open your eyes to aspects of health care delivery that cannot be taught through a textbook or university lecture. For those interested or curious, here are my top takeaways from my two months’ placement in Weipa.
Firstly, cultural awareness was one of my biggest takeaways. In the Occupational Therapy subjects taught at university, there is inclusion of cultural awareness and knowledge learnt about Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander people. However, true depth and understanding of this important learning cannot be fully understood during a subject at university. Thus, during my placement in Weipa my understanding of the Aboriginal and Torres Straight islander people and their history increased greatly. I learnt the importance of respect and listening when working with clients of this culture and how as a therapist you must work collaboratively with the client rather than just doing what you believe is best. I was also grateful for the stories that elders would share about their culture.
Secondly, I really appreciated being able to develop my skills and confidence in areas of my future profession. I found that most clients really appreciated my services, even as a student, compared to suburban areas where clients didn’t regard students as highly. This gave me more confidence in my practice as I felt that my input was valued. The staff were also very friendly and made me feel included and valued, allowing a safe learning environment to gain confidence in my knowledge and skills.
Lastly, as a girl living in a big city for the past 20 years, experiencing the remote lifestyle was a great takeaway. For those who haven’t lived or worked in a rural environment previously would have little understanding of the lifestyle and community closeness. When working in Weipa I noticed the very strong community spirit and close-knit staff. The experience of ‘everyone knowing everyone’ was really beautiful and a great depiction of small town life.
This CRANAplus Remote Placement Undergraduate Scholarship was sponsored by HESTA.