Getting to know the village – physiotherapy students’ experiences engaging with a rural community on a year-long clinical placement

Daniel Evans1, Jessica Garner1, Gabrielle Meredith1 and Luke Wakely2

1The University of Newcastle Faculty of Health & Medicine, Discipline of Physiotherapy
2The University of Newcastle Department of Rural Health

To be an effective rural clinician involves understanding and being involved with the community that one is working in. With this in mind physiotherapy students from the University of Newcastle can apply to undertake a full-year rural placement with the Department of Rural Health. An essential aspect of this placement is a range of community engagement activities designed with the dual purpose of allowing the students to engage with groups within the rural community and simultaneously undertaking activities aimed at improving the health the community. This paper presented by the students themselves, details their experiences undertaking the year-long placement, and in particular the community engagement activities. The students have been involved in a wide range of activities including providing services to local sporting teams, local school children and people with disabilities as well as working on projects with the local Aboriginal community. By participating in these programs, students felt they had more opportunity to contribute to the overall wellbeing of the community. They gained invaluable experience working with a variety of community groups they may not have previously had the chance to interact with, and received a better insight into Indigenous and rural health issues. Students valued the opportunity to contribute their own thoughts and ideas to the different programs on offer. Living in Tamworth for the year and working closely with the local community means the students are enthusiastic about returning to work in similar rural areas in the future.

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