Placement to practice

Rural Clinical School students of the University of Tasmania including (back from left) Alexandra Fisher, Callum Shea, Hamish Tso, Luke Bombardieri, (front) Louise Frew, Dalia Yousif, Ian Tan and Rose Provera were on placement in Circular Head last week. Picture: Ashleigh Force.

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Education. Rural Clinical School students experienced life in the field last week as part of Rural Week.

At the end of their stay, the group made a presentation to Circular Head Council and hosts Rotary Club of Smithton on what they had been up to during the annual University of Tasmania placement program.

Among those on placement in Circular Head were Alexandra Fisher, Callum Shea and Dalia Yousif who met with the Chronicle.

“Growing up in a rural community myself I can understand what the barriers to health [care] are and how important the health care system is in a place like this,” says Alexandra.

“I think this week has really allowed me to understand what I would be doing in working in a place like this.”

Meeting with general practitioners, health professionals and volunteers, students identified health care priorities as well as the challenges in accessing and delivering these services in rural locations.

“For me, I’ve never actually been exposed to a rural community before,” says Dalia.

“So this week has really opened my eyes to the difference in access to health . . . in rural and metropolitan areas.

“This experience has given me a lot of information and has allowed me to understand what I can improve on in terms of helping others.”

Throughout the week, students visited Emmerton Park, Circular Head Aboriginal Corporation and Rural Health Tasmania among others while also shadowing Smithton Medical Centre general practitioners and Smithton District Hospital staff.

“We’ve been exploring all facets of health among the community stemming from education and training,” says Callum, of visits to Smithton High School and Circular Head Christian School.

“We’ve also spent time exploring the community and seeing what is on offer in terms of health care.”

He noted both positives and negatives to living rurally and accessing care, including social isolation and mental health.

“We have really been able to get a good feel for how health care impacts those who live here, what it means to them and also the role that it plays in bringing everyone together,” says Alexandra.

“I really think that all the aspects of health that are provided here are comprehensive and everyone has good access to what they need.”

Dalia added: “You can really tell this is a progressive community, they identify the needs and problems and are working as a community, both health professionals and individuals, to bring the community closer toward better outcomes.”

When restricted by distance, collaboration between services is essential, says Callum.

“They all recognise the challenges and are facing them together.

“In terms of working in a rural community, providing health services, it seems like a more rewarding and involved service that you can provide.

“You’re working one-on-one with patients and you’re able to follow them through their life and really experience the health journey with them.”

Director of the Rural Clinical School doctor Lizzi Shires says the placement allows students to prepare for a future in the field. 

“Rural Week forms an integral part of the medicine curriculum as it complements what the students are already learning about rural health with practical first-hand experiences,” she says.

“Students live and work rurally, talking to residents, health professionals and community representatives to gain a better understanding of what the everyday health issues really are.

“It is important that all future doctors understand rural health issues so wherever they end up working, they can identify and treat rural people appropriately to improve access to health care.”

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