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.

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