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Student story: The country’s calling

14 Aug 2023

Curtin University physiotherapy student Abbey Staer experienced varied practice areas, outreach and Aboriginal health during her final placement at Karratha Health Campus. Having also found inspiration in the community spirit and breathtaking scenery, she’s raring to return.

My final year phys­io­ther­a­py place­ment at Kar­ratha Health Cam­pus in rur­al WA was an expe­ri­ence I trea­sure and cer­tain­ly mul­ti­plied my eager­ness for work­ing out in the coun­try. There is so much that’s dif­fer­ent and fresh about a rur­al set­ting that makes it so worth­while to experience. 

I appre­ci­ate the vari­a­tion of prac­tice you see and are able to grow skills in. I had place­ment in Pil­bara Pop­u­la­tion Health, which includ­ed out­pa­tient mus­cu­loskele­tal phys­io­ther­a­py, a bit of women’s health, geri­atrics, observ­ing pae­di­atrics, inpa­tients on the ward, com­mu­ni­ty hydrother­a­py class­es, observ­ing plas­ter­ing in the emer­gency depart­ment and out­reach clin­ics to small towns. 

I appre­ci­at­ed gain­ing a taste of what it’s like being a rur­al gen­er­al­ist, as this remains an area of inter­est. I enjoyed mix­ing with demo­graph­i­cal­ly diverse groups of patients, in terms of age, cul­ture and acuity. 

The work­place itself was great – friend­ly peo­ple with a mul­ti­dis­ci­pli­nary team atmos­phere. The staff were wel­com­ing and help­ful: impart­ing their knowl­edge and hav­ing a will­ing­ness to have me along on ses­sions or outreach. 

Out­reach to Roe­bourne and Onslow were also high­lights. A small team of allied health pro­fes­sion­als would vis­it a town for a day or two and have patients from that town come in for appoint­ments (as there is oth­er­wise often no per­ma­nent allied health in the town). It was a great oppor­tu­ni­ty to gain a bet­ter under­stand­ing of how our rur­al cit­i­zens access health and the chal­lenges around that.

I found great val­ue pro­fes­sion­al­ly and per­son­al­ly in work­ing with a high­er pop­u­la­tion of Abo­rig­i­nal patients. It is help­ful not just to have some knowl­edge of this health con­text, but to get hands-on expe­ri­ence too. It was encour­ag­ing to gen­er­al­ly see a dif­fer­ent lev­el of respect and acknowl­edge­ment of cul­tures from the peo­ple around the Pil­bara, while also chal­leng­ing to see the extent of socio-eco­nom­ic strug­gles many face and the sig­nif­i­cant dif­fi­cul­ties of health access. I’ve got much to learn.

One of the best aspects of rur­al life is the com­mu­ni­ty. The peo­ple around you real­ly band togeth­er and look out for one anoth­er. The coun­try is often viewed as an iso­lat­ed place. How­ev­er, depend­ing on where you go, there can be lots to do social­ly! I was encour­aged to link in with a local church, and had I been there longer def­i­nite­ly would have enjoyed a social sport.

And to top it off, Kar­ratha was geo­graph­i­cal­ly amaz­ing – such a rugged beau­ty that I hadn’t known before I went! I enjoyed many a walk around the rocky hills that the town is nes­tled in, a cou­ple of nice beach­es (when the tide was in!) and day trips to my favourite spot, Python Pool, a mean­ing­ful and beau­ti­ful must-see site. An over­all won­der­ful place and oppor­tu­ni­ty that I’m extreme­ly thank­ful to have had. I hope to get back there!

Apply for an Under­grad­u­ate Remote Place­ment Schol­ar­ship for finan­cial sup­port dur­ing your clin­i­cal place­ment, or read about the expe­ri­ences of oth­er stu­dents includ­ing Annabelle, Kundai and Gynette.