Exercise Physiologist in a rural practice (BO)

Identify the personal growth and skill development as a result of the WIL placement

The WIL placement helped my personal growth and development immensely. I was immersed in a professional environment that challenged and enabled me to push myself and achieve high quality results I could be proud of. First, I interacted with and assisted a diverse range of clients that changed by the hour. These clients varied in their condition needing treatment, their personality, education and their culture. This meant I had to tailor the approach I needed to take to find common ground and solutions that they would be excited to implement. For example, I might have had a 55 year old farmer at 10am who liked a no fuss, no detail but simple hard work approach to their rehabilitation. At 11am I might then have had a teacher who needed to know how every muscle and exercise worked before they could really take on the exercises and push themselves to achieve the best results. This helped me learn to be flexible and deliver solutions that each client would be motivated to implement.

Second, as it was a rural practice, there was often travel to remote communities that were equipped with fewer resources then I was accustomed to. This challenged me to think creatively to prescribe clients solutions that they could implement at home or with minimal equipment. For example, I would have to prescribe body weight exercises or encourage the client to acquire elastic resistance bands in place of specialist machines that target a muscle or movement group.

Third, working with my supervisors I was guided into taking more responsibility in client consultations. Initially, I would be assisted by my supervisors and we would work together to create programs and recommendations for the client. As I became more accustomed to the process and my confidence grew I would take the client consultations completely by myself with my supervisors checking in only to make sure things were going smoothly and there to offer assistance if I needed any additional help. I received only positive feedback from the clients and this, along with constructive comments on areas of improvement from my supervisors, has led me to feel comfortable and confident that I can perform professionally as an exercise physiologist.

Finally, at my placement I learned a great deal about time management, the importance of good communication with team members and other allied health professionals and that team building exercises are a great way to develop a strong sense of community in a workplace and also great fun.

How the ACEN Scholarship supported the recipient’s career aspirations

The ACEN scholarship supported my career aspirations in three ways. First, the scholarship enabled me to attend an award winning rural practice and learn many skills I feel are not available in urban areas. This unique experience has placed me in a good position to apply for employment in rural areas. Specifically, I have a feel for the rural client base and an understanding of how working in rural areas can require additional work considerations. For example, sometimes I would have to drive five hours to meet clients at their house of residence. Once there I would have to treat and assess clients without a fully equipped gym or assessment room. Second, the scholarship also helped my career as by attending my placement rurally I got to learn how the successful rural practice was set up and linked with other allied health professionals to provide a hub of comprehensive care. This knowledge will be helpful when I come to setting up my own rural practice. Specifically, I aim to include other health professionals in my practice so clients can be assessed and treated at the same place. I also observed that this can help keep communication channels open between professions and encourage closer collaboration to achieve positive outcomes for clients. For example, nutritionists, physiotherapists and exercise physiologists working together to manage diet, exercise and muscle rehabilitation in a comprehensive approach to client health. Third, the scholarship provided me the opportunity to work with a range of excellent, professional exercise physiologists and I acquired many new skills and techniques alongside receiving quality guidance on future career paths and professional contacts. This experience has been incredibly valuable in improving my competencies and I now feel fully capable of moving into a professional role after graduation.

Evidence of the ability to think critically and question biases and assumptions

Though at my placement assisted by the ACEN scholarship I gained a lot of valuable knowledge and experience, there were two things I was not expecting. First, I think I was biased into thinking the quality of rural care may be less adequate than that in urban areas. I had often assumed that due to fewer facilities clients in rural areas may have a harder time achieving outcomes. However, this was not the case. I found that the most important thing influencing client outcomes was their willingness to participate and my ability to get them enthusiastic and if specialist equipment was not available find creative ways for them to perform exercises. Second, I had often assumed that working professionals were an all knowing resource of knowledge. However, after working closely with them in a day to day environment I found that they do have areas that are not yet proficient in and that they are also constantly learning. This has encouraged me to be more open in admitting I do not know something and then seeking out information and assistance to find ways to address gaps in my knowledge.