Cobar is a small mining town of about 4,000 people almost smack bang in the middle of New South Wales. It’s about a three-hour drive to Dubbo and a base hospital, with an average annual rainfall just shy of 400mm, less than a quarter of what falls in many of the towns on the east coast.
A group of four nursing students from Southern Cross University spent three weeks in Cobar last year as part of their course. The group worked with the school community to design and implement a health prevention and education program aimed at teenage girls.
In addition to their daily contact with school teachers and support workers as well as regular video-link supervision with academic staff at the University, Allied Health students who were on placement in other remote towns ensured interprofessional input into the project.
Third-year nursing student Bec Boss said the experience was not what she was expecting. “In the city you’re a number not a name whereas out here there is a really strong sense of community and I have enjoyed connecting with people very much on that level. I think it will definitely make me a better health practitioner understanding the importance of that.”
Fellow student Imran said was touched by a story an Elder told her about the health choices people had to make when living in remote communities. “If your family members are sick and have to go to the city for treatment, it is very hard to visit them and so people make tough choices sometimes about their healthcare when they live out here,” she said.
Group Lead of Allied Health and Midwifery Associate Professor Jacqui Yoxall said that an interprofessional immersion placement in a rural or remote region was a fantastic opportunity to understand the health care needs and levels of care that exist across the country, and to learn fundamental skills in how to adapt to that as a health practitioner.
“These placements support development of a range of fundamental skills including teamwork, problem-solving, communication, resilience and the ability to engage with a variety of individuals in various life circumstances. Students engaged in these placements have specific education and orientation sessions that seek to improve their ability to engage and response in a culturally sensitive manner. We see time and again that graduates with this experience are very well-regarded by employers,” she said.
The team and their health intervention project also made it to the local paper. Check out their video to see more.
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