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Remote experience will open your eyes

1 Mar 2021

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.