Rural health – why and how could YOU get involved?

We are excited to publish a guest post written by Ben Crough. Ben is a rising star in rural health, being the Co-Senior Allied Health Liaison Officer of the National Rural Health Students Network. He has participated in a number of rural high school visits to encourage students to consider a career in health. If your school is interested in this program, check out http://www.nrhsn-rhsv.org.au for more information.

“Hi, my name is Ben Crough and I’m in my final year of B.Pharmacy at the University of New England. I’m from Tamworth, NSW and have always had an affinity with rural Australia. Studying at a regional University and growing up in the Country I have always appreciated the benefits of living away from the city. A lot of the positives living away include the open spaces, fresh air and quick drives to work. The social events based around a bonfire are great and there is a real sense of everyone knows everyone and they care. You usually also have Primary producers in your back yard so food, fibre and coffee is always fresh and in good supply.  The only negative is the reduced numbers of health professionals working in rural and remote areas.

Currently there is a huge lacking in the appropriate numbers of health workers in rural and remote areas. Some disciplines speak of an oversupply but really it is more of a maldistribution of the workforces that sees country towns and communities without a Doctor, Pharmacist, Speech Pathologist or Nurse to name a few.
Work being done by organisations such as the National Rural Health Students Network (NRHSN) are helping to change that. Some other organisations provide financial assistance to member to go rural whilst some provide up skilling and special courses for current workers. The NRHSN, with its many Rural Health Clubs (RHC) around Australia, (29), are in fact doing Rural High School Visits (RHSV) and other initiatives and programs to get prospective and current university students to go rural.
A RHC is a university based group of students who are studying a health degree and strive to get their peers to go rural once they graduate; they also try to get the younger generation into rural areas also.

So what is a Rural High School Visit?
Members of the clubs go out to rural and remote schools to speak with secondary students about the positives of going to university, the joys of doing a health degree and the satisfaction they get when they work rural and remote. We know that students who are from a rural area and study away have a higher chance of going back rural to work. That’s why RHC’s around Australia volunteer their time to bring fun activities like arm plastering,  BP checking, emergency scenario games and playing with tools from the bags of Dentists, Occupational Therapists and Physio’s to rural schools so students get to see what it is like.

The success of these visits is in the numbers of students who are going to study and are going back to work rural once they are done. A friend of mine who came along with me to Central Australia for a School of the Air RHSV had a visit himself in Muswellbrook when he was in Year 11 and now he is doing Physio at Newcastle and planning to go back around him home town to work.

Without more students going into rural and remote health careers the people of these areas will suffer from inadequate healthcare something no Australian should have to endure. It’s upsetting to hear also from students in health degrees and high schools who think going rural is somehow a disadvantage to their career or learning and so only see the big teaching practices or hospitals in the city as the only option.

In the current climate there are always new and exciting opportunities for health professionals to get a certain degree and then up skill and generalise so you’re of better use for your community. Current models are based for General Practitioners but soon we will be seeing Nurses and Allied Health workers having a range of skills that they may never have thought they would possess. One example is Pharmacy where most of the time you’re handing out medications but in some situations you may also need to administer the medication. Certain courses will teach those people how to give needles and be safe around them. How many Pharmacists in the city can do that?

It’s also beneficial to know that if and when you go rural there will be also a number of support programs, scholarships and relocation allowances that will make your transition from Uni to rural practice so much easier. I’m at that stage now and looking to go back to Tamworth for my Intern year before heading remote to practice. I have the opportunity to take up assistance with my relocation once I’m ready and will also have the opportunity to contact other health workers, to mentor or guide me through a transition into remote practice. These mentors might be in another town but organisations that support you won’t leave you out in the dark when you go rural.
So my challenge for you as a high school student is for you to consider going into a health degree. If you’re at University look at taking up a rural or remote placement and if you’re near graduated or have a degree think about going rural or remote. You won’t regret it.

Check out what it is like doing work and placement in a rural town:

Part 1: Wide Horizons: Health Students Get Out of Town

Part 2: Wide Horizons: Health Students Get Out of Town

For more information on the NRHSN and the 29 Rural Health Clubs please visit www.nrhsn.org.au
If your school is interested in a Rural High School Visit please email rhsv@nrhsn.org.au

Ben”

Special thanks to Diana Carli-Seebohm at the Northern Territory Medicare Local for providing all the images in this post!!

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