The shortage of health professionals in rural and remote areas of southern Queensland is an issue The University of Queensland is working to address.
Significant progress has been made with the work Southern Queensland Rural Health (SQRH) has done to increase clinical placement and quality training opportunities for UQ students.
SQRH Director, Associate Professor Geoff Argus said studies have proven students who have rural training are much more likely to remain in or return to rural communities.
“We have started to see this trend among students who have chosen to apply for jobs in rural and remote communities after their clinical placements in these areas,” Associate Professor Argus said.
“So far this year SQRH has facilitated over 100 rural clinical placements for UQ students based across rural communities on the Darling Downs to the far west of remote southern Queensland.”
There are many benefits and rich learning experiences for students who undertake training in rural and remote areas.
“Students who do their clinical placements in rural areas find their learning experiences are more varied and hands-on, with many learning about indigenous culture and the challenges of rural health care services.”
SQRH works with local Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisations to provide culturally safe practice for students.
“We hope to broaden their awareness by facilitating opportunities where students work alongside Indigenous people,” Associate Professor Argus said.
SQRH facilitates placement opportunities for students studying nursing, midwifery and allied health programs including physiotherapy, pharmacy, speech pathology, social work, psychology, dietetics and exercise physiology. Students are placed in a range of settings such as private and public hospitals, aboriginal medical services, primary health care providers and the Royal Flying Doctor Service.
“Interprofessional practice is another skill students who train rurally benefit from as rural health practice often relies on a more generalist and interprofessional focus where students have the opportunity to learn from, with and about each other by working closely with other health professionals,” Associate Professor Argus said.
“This experience equips students to be confident to collaborate with other health professionals across the spectrum, to succeed as effective team members and lead interprofessional healthcare teams to ultimately improve rural health care.”
Alongside increasing placement opportunities and quality training experiences, SQRH focuses on the importance of student involvement in the community.
“There are many unique experiences that students get to take part in such as rodeos, the Melon Festival in Chinchilla, the Charleville Bilby Festival, race days, and the Toowoomba Food Flower and Wine Festival to name a few,” Associate Professor Argus said
For students to undertake rural placements, financial support can be a major factor. Consequently, some students who would like to undertake rural placements don’t apply.
To encourage students to consider rural placements philanthropy is key to ensuring students are able to look more favourably on taking up a rural or remote placement.
UQ has set up an Allied Health, Nursing and Dentistry Scholarship that provides financial support, develops research opportunities and enables work experience.
To find out how you can contribute visit the UQ Allied Health, Nursing and Dentistry Scholarship webpage.
SQRH is a partnership between UQ, University of Southern Queensland, Darling Downs Health and South West Hospital and Health Service.