Working together for rural health

28 FEBRUARY 2012

Prospective health professionals have seen the value of teamwork in rural and remote Australia in a project led by CSU.

Prospective health professionals have seen the value of teamwork in rural and remote Australia in a project led by Charles Sturt University (CSU).
Students aiming to become dietitians, doctors, nurses, occupational therapists, pharmacists, and podiatrists in central and southern NSW last year took part in The Right Start training program, funded by the the Clinical Education and Training Institute (CETI). 
The Right Start program was developed and trialled by Charles Sturt University and its partners sought to make health students ready to work in rural and regional environments and retain them in rural areas, while also meeting the needs of local communities,” said program team leader Dr Megan Smith from CSU’s School of Community Health.
“The program highlighted the different ways rural health workers need to work in regional areas.”
The pilot program, which ran in late 2011 and included staff and final year students from CSU, Western and Murrumbidgee Local health Districts and the University of NSW, consisted of two teams of eight students located around southern and central NSW. CETI funded the program to give new graduates the ‘right start’ to work in the NSW public health system. NSW patients perceived that how well doctors and nurses work together was the most important factor for patient care in NSW public hospitals.
Dr Smith said health professionals needed different skills to work in regional areas compared to cities.
“When you work in a rural environment, you may be the only professional there in your discipline, so you need to work out what networks you can tap into as you don’t have as many people around you as you do in cities. You need to work out how to do that.
“You also live with the people you treat and work with, so you are surrounded by your work. The people you play football with, you see them in the supermarket, and you have to work out how you are going to manage those things and have a life outside of work.
“You don’t necessarily learn this at university, so this program is an important step into transitioning into rural practice.”
Research on the project will continue in the first half of 2012 to assess the effectiveness of the program.

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