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Rural healthcare: the student perspective

03 Aug 2021

Caring for rural and remote communities can be a challenging and rewarding career path. In our latest Taking care episode, we speak with three health students on their study journey and how they are supporting their communities.

Medical student Harry Gaffney, podiatry student Hayley Johns and medical student and pharmacist, Debra Lee, join host Tash Miles to discuss the unique nature of healthcare and healthcare delivery in rural and remote settings.

Between the three of them they have experienced life and healthcare in regional, rural or remote parts of the country including across Western Australia, New South Wales, South Australia and Victoria.

‘It’s just part of the fun: not knowing what to expect not, not knowing what’s expected of you. It’s all part of discovering the local community, and each place has their own little special thing that they do,’ says Debra Lee.

An advantage of placement in these communities is the exposure to more significant health issues. Due to the nature of regions and distance to hospitals, general practices are often treating patients in emergency department type situations.

Harry recalls a moment when he was helping set up for the day when a local came calling for help at the unopened clinic.

‘It’s such a great training environment because you just need to think on your feet all the time. I was going to help turn on the computer and vacuum, and I ended up preventing heart attacks from happening. It was really intense.’

All three have felt the effects the pandemic has had on their learning. While they can see the benefits of some online training remaining the norm, it needs to be accessible to all, including those in rural areas with less internet coverage. 

‘I think it is going to become more common, universities are going to be going to put more and more online ... which is really great if you do have internet but a struggle if you don’t,’ Hayley says.

The challenges of healthcare in these communities include being geographically isolated, cultural barriers, and limited resources. But all agree it is a privilege to have these experiences.

‘I entered into an extremely welcoming and supportive community, that had me actually feeling anything but isolated. In fact, I kinda feel more connected to a society and community than I ever have before,’ Harry adds.

Listen to the full episode now

Did you know?

The Taking care podcast series offers professional and consumer perspectives on current issues and answers some frequently asked questions about public safety in healthcare. Download and listen to the latest Taking care episode today. 

Ahpra releases a new episode fortnightly, discussing current topics and the latest issues affecting safe healthcare in Australia. You can also listen and subscribe on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and by searching ‘Taking Care’ in your podcast player.

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Page reviewed 3/08/2021