Providing a Kick Start to Rural Health through Student Led Services

Mr Alex Lalovic1, Dr Sandra Hamilton1, Mrs Kathryn Fitzgerald1

1WA Centre For Rural Health, Geraldton, Australia


Kick Start is an 8-week program for individuals 18-65 years of age residing in a rural setting and diagnosed with chronic or mental health conditions. It is an interprofessional student teaching clinic within a service-learning model, delivered by exercise physiology (EP) and physiotherapy students, and other disciplines as appropriate. Kick Start aims to improve clients’ quality of life and extend and improve students’ clinical skills and rural experience.
Students are responsible for undertaking a thorough case history, objective assessment, program design and delivery. A process and outcomes program evaluation is being undertaken. Outcome measures include student learning experience on rural placement and client measures including body composition analysis, 6-minute walk test, 30-second sit to stand test, waist-to-hip ratio and quality of life (SF12).
A process evaluation elicited several adaptions including change of the SF36 Health Survey to the SF12, use of the electronic medical record management system, Communicare with specific Kick Start clinical items, improvement of referral processes including extension of recruitment to retirement village residents, a Kick Start specific end of placement student survey, clarification of goal setting questions and inclusion of inter-professional disciplines other than of EP and Physiotherapy students when appropriate. Evaluation of outcome measures is ongoing.
Kick start provides rural clients with the opportunity to access and benefit from services and facilities they are otherwise unable to access and students a rich hands on supervised rural learning experience with a variety of complex cases.


Alex graduated Murdoch University with a Bachelor of Science (Exercise Physiology) and a First-Class Honours in 2013. After working in private practice for four years, he took the position of Associate Lecturer & Clinic Supervisor at the WA Centre for Rural Health with the University of Western Australia. His role includes the supervision of exercise physiology students on rural placement within a service-learning model.

His clinical exercise physiology interests include cardiac and metabolic rehabilitation, mental health and musculoskeletal rehabilitation.

Alex’s Honours research was in sports science, examining the link between visual anticipatory skill and timing of weight shift transfer to initiate bat swing between an expert batter (Major League Baseball experience) and near-expert batters (from the Australian Baseball League).

Alex’s other interests include marketing and business development as well as being active in sport, playing and coaching in soccer and futsal.

Get them while they are young! A Student Health Academy Promoting Careers for Rural High School Students

Mrs Kathryn Fitzgerald1, Ms Jodi Ullrich1

1WA Centre For Rural Health, Geraldton, Australia


The Student Health Academy (SHA) is a strategy to assist in a long term approach to ensuring a strong future rural health workforce by providing high school students with information and experiential learning about health careers. Based on the principles of the rural health pipeline, the WA Centre for Rural Health (WACRH) has delivered an immersive 2-day program to over 250 rural high school students in year 10 who have shown an interest in a health career. It is designed to include all key professions and allied health professions are integral to this. Academy members interact with local health professionals and students on clinical placement with WACRH and the program includes simulated learning with a focus with participants completing eight skills sessions from our suite of twenty-six. While the feedback from the six school partners and the participants is positive, in 2018/19, the SHA program has been expanded to provide a greater long term relationship with the high school students and schools, with a student health cadets program commencing from year 7. The aim of this is to focus on key student groups, and to develop a 6 year relationship with high school students in the Academy Program along the pipeline commencing with health literacy in the cadets program (year 7-9), careers information and learning in year 10, and support with academic choices and directions in years 11 and 12. This presentation will outline the development of the SHA so far and the development of the expanded program.


Kathryn Fitzgerald has worked in rural and remote areas as an Allied Health professional in clinical practice, in policy and program development and in health professions’ education for over 30 years, and has been involved with SARRAH since the organisation’s early days. She currently works as the Clinical Education Manager for the WA Centre for Rural Health based in the Midwest of Western Australia.

Checking out the landscape: the experiences of a Grade 1 physiotherapists from a major tertiary Hospital rotating through a remote hospital and the positive impact on recruitment

Ms Sally Barrett2 Ms Annie Farthing1, 2, Ms Lenore Block2     

1Centre for Remote Health, Alice Springs, Australia, 2Alice Springs Hospital, Alice Springs, Australia


In 2010 Alfred Health signed an agreement with the Alice Springs Hospital (ASH) to have Grade 1 physiotherapists complete a four month rotation at ASH. Since the program commenced, Twenty seven physiotherapists have chosen to complete a rotation in Central Australia. Seven staff members have returned to take up P2 positions at the Alice Springs Hospital within a year of completing their rotations in Alice Springs – currently, four of the nine physiotherapists employed by ASH are former employees of Alfred Health and all of these staff were first introduced to remote healthcare through the Alice Springs rotation.

This presentation will explore the experiences of the therapists who have chosen to take up a career in remote health through this process. It aims to highlight some of the lessons learned by staff at Alice Springs Hospital as well as from Alfred Health, and will propose key factors which have supported and challenged the project.


Sally is very lucky to have started her physiotherapy career with Alfred Health. She took the opportunity to “check out” the landscape in Alice Springs on a rotation through the grad program, fell in love with the place and came back to continue her career in Central Australia.

Going Rural Health Program: changing student placements for the better

Ms Claire Salter1, Ms Keryn Bolte

1Going Rural Health – University Of Melbourne, Shepparton, Australia, 2Going Rural Health – University Of Melbourne, Shepparton, Australia


The Going Rural Health Program is part of the University Department of Rural Health under the auspices of the University of Melbourne. It is part of a federally funded project supporting nursing and allied health students to undertake placement experiences in rural settings. Our teams are based in Wangaratta, Shepparton and Ballarat and actively work with health services and education providers, along with students directly, to assist and improve the learning and experiences students gain during their clinical placement. This is all with the intent of promoting and addressing rural health workforce development and include traditional clinical opportunities as well as service learning placements. We have a strong focus on student support, which includes creative supervisions models, placement matching, accommodation, online and face to face training, social engagement, financial assistance and mentoring.

This presentation outlines the development of the program to date, some key learnings and how the Going Rural Health program has supported students, staff and communities to deliver outstanding health care with a community-minded focus within rural Victoria.


Claire joined the Going Rural Health team in Shepparton, Victoria in 2018 after two years working with an NGO in Cambodia. Claire has spent most of her professional career working in Northern Australia in Indigenous health and education spheres. Claire is a SARRAH board member and is passionate about providing students with innovative, exciting rural learning opportunities.

The changing landscape of physiotherapy student clinical placements: An exploration of geographical distribution and student outcomes across settings.

Dr Catherine Johnston1, Mr Clint Newstead2, Dr Luke Wakely3

1Discipline of Physiotherapy, School Of Health Sciences, The University of Newcastle, Callaghan, Australia, 2Discipline of Physiotherapy, School of Community Health, Charles Sturt University, Orange, Australia, 3University of Newcastle Department of Rural Health, Tamworth, Australia


Background: As numbers of physiotherapy students in Australia increase, there may be a greater reliance on rural healthcare facilities to provide clinical education experiences. It is unknown as to whether a shift in placement distribution away from a historically metropolitan dominated pattern has occurred in recent years and whether placement outcomes are equivalent. This study aimed to describe the geographical distribution of physiotherapy clinical placements and to investigate the relationship between geographical setting and placement assessment outcomes. Methods: A retrospective cohort design was used. Study year, type, geographical location and grade were recorded for all block clinical placements undertaken by physiotherapy students at The University of Newcastle between 2003 and 2014. Geographical locations were further classified using the Modified Monash Model (MMM). Results: Data from 3964 placements were included. From 2003 to 2014 the proportion of clinical placements undertaken in metropolitan areas (MMM1) decreased from 78% to 59% and increased in rural areas (MMM3-6) from 22% to 40%. There were significant differences in grades between placements classified as MMM1 and all other categories, with lower median marks in MMM1. Conclusion: The change in distribution of placements may reflect increasing student numbers, more regional physiotherapy programs and greater efforts to enable students to undertake rural placements, for example, by University Departments of Rural Health. The resultant shift in geographical distribution of placements may have a positive effect on the rural workforce. Further research is required to determine the specific training and support needs of students and clinical educators in rural settings.


Luke Wakely is a Lecturer in Physiotherapy at the University of Newcastle Department of Rural Health (UONDRH). He recently completed his PhD examining the experience of parenting a premature infant in a rural area. Luke co-ordinates the physiotherapy program at the UONDRH. He also has a masters in paediatric physiotherapy and works clinically as a paediatric physiotherapist. He is passionate about rural health equity especially for children.

Preparing the next generation for the changing landscape: Physiotherapy students’ learning through community engagement programs

Ms Trishika Narula2, Ms Cassandra Small2, Mr Thomas Raeside2, Ms Rosannah Fizelle2, Mr James Bodycote2, Mr  James Dowton3, Dr Luke Wakely1, Mrs Kate Currie3

1University Of Newcastle Department Of Rural Health, Tamworth, Australia, 2University of Newcastle, Faculty of Health and Medicine, Discipline of Physiotherapy , Callaghan, Australia, 3University Of Newcastle Department Of Rural Health, Port Macquarie, Australia


Introduction:An innovative strategy to enhance work readiness of physiotherapy students at the University of Newcastle Department of Rural Health is to provide full-year immersion placements in a rural setting. A substantial component of this program is the facilitation of community engagement with the local rural community through a range of unique activities.

Method:This paper describes an innovative education method of improving the non-propositional knowledge and work readiness skills of physiotherapy students. This paper, about their experiences, will be presented by the students – the next generation.

Results:Physiotherapy students have the opportunity to study the entirety of their final academic year at the University of Newcastle Department of Rural Health. This includes a range of innovative community engagement activities. The activities aim to improve the health of the local rural community, but also to provide opportunity for students to engage with aspects of the community on a deeper, richer level. Students have the opportunity to interact with groups who they may interact with on placement but not engage with in a meaningful way, such as the local Aboriginal community, children and youth, and disability groups.

Conclusion/Outcome:Physiotherapy students find the community engagement programs to be a valuable adjunct to their education program. They perceive that the skills they develop will be beneficial in clinical practice.Take home Message
Students’ perceive that community engagement activities are an invaluable educational activity.
Community engagement through mutually beneficial activities improves the health of the community and enhances physiotherapy students’ work-readiness.


Trish Narula and Cassandra Small are both fourth-year physiotherapy students at the University of Newcastle. Both have nearing completion of their final year of study which they have undertaken as a rural immersion year at the University of Newcastle Department of Rural Health in Tamworth.

Health Careers to Try – changing lives for the future

Mrs Susan Witt1, Mr Mantavya Patel2

1Flinders University, Tiwi, Australia, 2Top End Health Service, Tiwi, Australia


Introduction:Health workforce shortages in the Northern Territory are problematic for health services. Further most health courses are not available locally so students are required to move interstate to train, increasing the likelihood that they may not return to the NT after graduating.

Method:Our health service procured a Youth Week grant to fund a ‘Health Careers to Try’ day. As a health careers promotion event, interactive profession-specific 15 minute stations were designed where students could touch, ask questions and learn about the various disciplines. Additionally, local universities provided information about pathways to study the profession of choice.

Results:There have been four ‘Health Careers to Try’ to date. In 2018 a total of 108 students participated with many schools requesting additional places due to high interest from Year 10-12 students. All student groups were accompanied by school staff. Fifteen stations were included with most stations rostering staff and placement students to ensure minimal impact on clinical services. Following the event 98 students indicated an interest in pursuing a career in health with 43 students requesting follow-up information about specific courses.

Discussion: Feedback from health professionals, staff and students indicated the day was a great success with outcomes ranging from increased awareness of health careers, improved knowledge of career pathways and university access. It also provided an opportunity to showcase the diversity of the hospital services and built stronger relationships between University, local Schools and Health services.


Susan Witt completed Occupational Therapy training in 2000. She worked extensively across Australia and overseas before completing a Masters in 2015. She is currently employed as a Lymphoedema therapist at the Royal Darwin Hospital and Lecturer Nursing and Allied Health at Flinders University. She is also working towards a PHD in Lymphoedema.

Mantavya Patel is currently employed as Clinical Nurse Educator for the Graduate Nurse Program with the Top End Health Service, Northern Territory. He obtained a Bachelor of Science and then Post Graduate Certificate in Medical Laboratory Science before completing his nursing qualification in New Zealand. He continued to peruse a post graduate qualification in Health Science (Advance Nursing) and is currently undertaking a Masters of Clinical Education.

Mantavya is a highly motivated Clinical Nurse Educator with experience in various healthcare settings including major metropolitan hospitals as well as rural regional centres. Additionally, he has extensive knowledge and experience in simulation based learning. Mantavya has worked in clinical and educational roles in New Zealand, Western Australia, Northern Territory and Queensland.

Predicting the future health workforce – finding leaks in the pipeline

Ms. Claire  Seaman1, Professor  Megan Smith1, Prof. Deborah Warr1, Associate Professor  Gene Hodgins1, Mr. Brent Smith1

1Three Rivers University Department Rural Health, North Wagga Wagga, Australia


Addressing the recruitment and retention of the rural allied health workforce is a critical issue impacting on the quality of health care for rural communities. Research suggests that future rural recruitment could be enhanced by supporting students from rural backgrounds to study health professions in rural locations with opportunities for rural placements. This pipeline strategy informs a range of initiatives targeting rural-background students to study health professions. To assess progress in these efforts we analysed student enrolment data to identify factors that shaped the profile of students enrolling in allied health courses at Charles Sturt University (CSU). CSU delivers entry-level allied health profession education with over 5000 students enrolled across 15 allied health degrees with all of its campuses in regional locations.
In this presentation we discuss analyses of allied health student enrolments at CSU to explore associations between biographical factors and course preferences. The analyses show that just over 60% of students at CSU have rural backgrounds, and notable differences between students from rural- and metropolitan-background students in course selections and placement preferences. Other factors, including, gender, proximity of campuses to capital cities, type of degree (under- or post-graduate) and mode of course delivery also appeared to influence enrolment preferences. Students from rural backgrounds included relatively high numbers of Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander and women. The findings offer important insights into factors influencing students’ preferences to study at a rural university that are relevant to maximising the success of a pipeline strategy for building a rural health workforce.


Claire is the Program Evaluator for Three Rivers UDRH. She has expertise in quantitative methodologies and has experience in Her in developing and conducting applied research projects. She is currently completing her PhD in sociology and her doctoral thesis examines prosocial engagement and well-being among Australian men and women.

Tracking change on the rural workforce landscape: a longitudinal study of allied health recent graduates

A/Prof. Tony Smith1, A/Prof. Leanne Brown1, Dr Luke Wakely1, Ms Rebecca  Wolfgang1, Ms Alexandra Little1, Dr Julie Burrows1

1University Of Newcastle Department Of Rural Health, Taree, Australia


The University of Newcastle Department of Rural Health (UONDRH) is part of the Australian Government’s Rural Health Multidisciplinary Training (RHMT) Program, providing high quality education experiences for health professional students and building rural health workforce capacity. UONDRH is undertaking research aimed at tracking employment outcomes of allied health students who participated in the program.

This study began in 2011 and targets Medical Radiation Science, Nutrition and Dietetics, Occupational Therapy, Physiotherapy and Speech Pathology students. Participants complete one or more of three components:
• an end-of-placement survey,
• end-of-placement semi-structured interview, and
• a follow-up survey at one, three and five years after graduation.
Work location by remoteness area (RA) classification is compared for rural or urban origin and factors influencing career planning.

One year follow-up was completed by 167 ex-students (53% of eligible participants), 60 after 3 years (44%). At 1 year, 82 (49%) respondents worked in RA2 to RA5 locations, 57 (70%) of who were of rural background. After 3 years, of 21 (35%) who worked in RA2-5 locations, 10 (48%) were of rural origin. Though numbers are small (n=6), at 5 years follow-up, one third were employed in RA2-5. Practice location was most influenced by rural upbringing, placement experience, work availability and personal commitments.

This study is ongoing until 2019. While results suggest a higher proportion of UONDRH graduates enter rural practice than for the Australian Graduate Survey, further tracking will provide insight into how the UONDRH impacts on rural health workforce capacity building.


Tony Smith is a radiographer with over 30 years’ experience. He has worked in both public hospitals and private practices and as an academic at the University of Newcastle. In 2003, he relocated to Tamworth as the Medical Radiation Science academic in the then newly established the University of Newcastle Department of Rural Health. He is currently Associate Professor and Academic Lead – Research in the Department and is based in Taree on the NSW Mid-North Coast.

Tony’s research interests are in allied health workforce and interprofessional education and practice. He has a long term interest in the education and support of GPs and nurses who perform limited-licence radiography in rural and remote locations.

Home is where the heart is

Miss Liana Bryant1

1Mt Isa Hospital, Mt Isa, Australia


Home is where the heart is
Roxborough Downs is a 208000 hectare station located 230km from Boulia on the Queensland/NT border; my home. Growing up here opened my eyes to the harsh realities of living in a rural/remote area, particularly the impact distance has on people in rural and remote areas. I had firsthand experience about the uniqueness of rural/remote communities, which is not always understood in healthcare. It was all too common to hear my community speak about their poor health as the ‘norm’. This fuelled a passion to enter into Occupational Therapy as an opportunity to make a significant, meaningful difference.
Changing my landscape
I attended university in Townsville and had the opportunity to learn about a realistic expectation of health, and that the “normal” experienced in rural/remote locations, should not to be accepted without question. I suddenly had an overwhelming sense of grief and sadness for my local community and others in similar settings. I was hit with the realisation that the healthcare they received was vastly different to those in Townsville, due to the fact that they chose to live where they did.

Changing lives
Upon graduation I decided to return ‘home’ to western Queensland and grasp the opportunity to put into practice the combination of my rural background with the knowledge and skills received from a regional area. I can now work towards bridging the gap between regional-based health education and a deep understanding of, and link to, rural and remote people and their communities.


Liana grew up on Roxborough Downs station which is located approximately 240km from the small town of Boulia in western Queensland. Liana received the SARRAH Nursing and Allied Health Undergraduate scholarship while studying Occupational Therapy in Townsville. This scholarship greatly assisted her to complete her studies, obtaining a Bachelor of Occupational Therapy. She has since returned to western Queensland where she now works as an Occupational Therapist at the North West Hospital and Health Service based in Mt Isa. Liana has also worked across the North West and Lower Gulf of Queensland and is passionate about rural and remote healthcare.


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