Placement in NT

Placement in NT

ACEN student scholarship

Dentistry placement experience in the Northern Territory

When I found out I was placed in the Northern Territory for my second clinical rotation, I felt excited and prepared. Growing up in the regional city of Cairns, I believed I had the right skills and knowledge to handle the clinical challenges faced in the NT. However, I had underestimated the potential for personal and professional growth.

My 16 week WIL placement commenced in the first week of July and concluded late October. Throughout this experience I worked predominately at the Darwin Dental Clinic however had the opportunity to work at the Royal Darwin Hospital with special needs patients. I was also privileged enough to spend a week in the remote community of Yarralin, 400 kilometres west of Katherine. Each clinical experience and challenge contributed to the diverse skill set vital for my career as a rural practitioner.

Skill Development


I had to improve my non-verbal communication skills as well as learn non-jargon terms for oral disease for people with little or no health literacy.

The multicultural nature of Darwin presented a large challenge to what I thought were my strong communication skills. However, from the first day, I had to convey diagnoses, treatments and emotional support to patients who barely speak and understand English, if not at all. I had to improve my non-verbal communication skills as well as learn non-jargon terms for oral disease for people with little or no health literacy.

Working with the Indigenous community in Yarralin, I learnt terms and sayings for treatments which I applied when treating other Indigenous people. This helped build a rapport with my patients and helped make a comfortable atmosphere.

Clinical Knowledge and its Application

Coming into my final rotation of my dental degree I was confident in my knowledge base of dental treatments. Little did I know the application of my knowledge would be tested when working in the Northern Territory. Previously working in non-Indigenous communities, extracting teeth became second nature for me. However, I was surprised about the density
and strength of the bone holding in teeth of Indigenous people. From this experience, I was able to learn different extraction techniques and learnt to rely on instruments I had never dreamed of using before.

Personal Growth

Throughout this WIL placement, I learnt valuable lessons which helped me reflect on my personal life. The optimal example of this was my time spent in the remote community of Yarralin. I had no phone service nor any way to contact the “outside world”. This gave me ample opportunity to watch and learn from the members of the community. I was able to build on my cultural competence and sensitivity, taking the time to speak to the members of the community and learn from them. My time spent in the community made me appreciate the opportunities I have had and encouraged my desire to work in rural areas.

ACEN Scholarship

My time spent in the NT was made a lot more comfortable by being awarded the 2017 ACEN WIL Student Scholarship. Not only was I rewarded with a valuable experience which opened my eyes to the health challenges of Indigenous people but I was also able to immerse myself in the culture of Darwin and surrounding areas. With the scholarship I was able to experience and learn about Darwin. Moreover, ACEN has helped me pursue my dream of working as a rural dentist.

Placement on Cape York

Placement on Cape York

ACEN student scholarship

Nutrition and Dietetics in Cape York

2017 ACEN Student Scholarship Work Integrated Learning: Reflection

I had been encouraged to “go rural”, to experience a different way of life and expand my networks outside of urban Brisbane. However I had no idea the truly life changing experience a remote placement would be, opening my eyes to an unfamiliar Australia and leading me into opportunities to build both my professional and personal self.

I had the privilege of working as a student dietitian in western Cape York this year on an integrated WIL placement. My 10 weeks at Weipa Hospital involved a clinical role working both in the inpatient and outpatient setting as well as a foodservice project that focused on improving the quality of the hospital meal service. In this way I got to experience the challenges and benefits of being a true “rural generalist”, each day demanding a new set of responsibilities. The diversity of the placement experience presented me with the opportunity to build the diverse and highly transferable skill set required to begin a career as competent and uniquely qualified dietitian.

Skill development

Clinical knowledge

In my role as a generalist my clinical knowledge grew significantly as I was challenged to provide dietetic care to a diverse range of patients. My experiences ranged from treating patients in a limited acute care facility to outreach in the surrounding Indigenous communities. I needed to be as proficient in paediatric-feeding issues as I was in managing malnutrition in aged care residents. I became well versed in a wide range of standards and best practice guidelines and learned to be resourceful when access to evidence and resources were lacking.

Prior to this placement I could not have imagined independently completing nutrition assessments of 32 children in a single day of annual school health checks!

As one of the sole (student) dietitians working in the very remote region I developed the effective communication and cultural competency skills needed to provide care to patients who vary in age, gender, socio-economic status, cultures and treatment plans. I learned to be creative and resourceful as I provided nutrition education to individuals, groups and via telehealth services. The ability to adapt and tailor nutrition information to suit the needs, preferences and perspectives of others is an essential competency for all graduate dietitians.


In addition to expanding knowledge and practice, I developed leadership and project management skills as I worked establish an implementation plan for continuous meal quality improvement with the hospital food service. Given the region’s restricted access to supplies and resources, this task required critical thinking and problem solving in order to overcome barriers to maintaining quality in a remote service. I developed the negotiation and decision-making skills necessary to work collaboratively with a multidisciplinary team and consult with relevant stakeholders. I learned that building strong relationships is foundational to successful change management.

Personal growth

I could have elected to complete my placements locally where I could return each night to the comfort of home. However my experiences in Weipa were not restricted to 9-5pm but continued throughout my time there, as I became part of the remote community. In this way my growth was both professional and personal.

Self- confidence, independence and authenticity

During this placement I developed the self-confidence needed to work independently and authentically. Over the course of the 10 weeks I was continuously challenged to step out of my comfort zone and take on all that was presented. Prior to this placement I could not have imagined independently completing nutrition assessments of 32 children in a single day of annual school health checks! Reflective practice and constructive supervisory feedback will helped me to feel comfortable with my strengths and make progress towards competence, allowing me to recognise and utilise my own unique abilities in practice.

Cultural competence: questioning biases and assumptions

While on placement in Weipa I built valuable cultural competence skills through exposure to a range of patients and experiences. From home visits to patients in Napranum and Mapoon to my own Welcome to Country ceremony, I developed a deep understanding and appreciation of culture and the impact of history on current practices. In immersing myself in the life and culture of remote Australia I gained the empathy and compassion necessary to adopt an approach to practice that recognizes the multi-factorial and interconnected determinants that affect nutrition and health of all individuals and communities.

ACEN Scholarship

Although a rural/remote placement is a valuable and rewarding experience, it is not without drawbacks and sacrifices. Leaving home, work, family and friends for 10 weeks undeniably came with some financial and emotional stress. Being awarded a 2017 ACEN Scholarship was an honour and allowed me worry less about these practicalities and focus more on enjoying this unique opportunity. Thank you to ACEN for your support and for encouraging students like myself to “go rural”.

ACEN VIC/TAS Conference Planning Workshop

ACEN VIC/TAS Conference Planning Workshop

Join your ACEN colleagues to plan for the 2018 ACEN conference

  • Get help deciding whether to present your topic of interest or research topic as a: refereed paper, poster submission, showcase presentation or roundtable discussion
  • Discuss opportunities for collaborative presentations
  • Get feedback from colleagues on your topic/abstract

When: Wedenesday November 8, 2017

Time: to 12 noon

Where: Victoria University, City Flinders Campus, 300 Flinders Street, Level 9, Room CFL-FS906

RSVP here by November 5, 2017

If you can’t attend join us via Zoom:

More information about the call for papers and abstracts

Dietetics placement in Orange NSW

Dietetics placement in Orange NSW

Dietetics in Orange, NSW

I undertook my work integrated learning (WIL) placement in the regional area of Orange, New South Wales. During this placement, I worked as a student dietitian for 4 weeks, mainly conducting a quality improvement project on the food service system in the maternity unit of Orange Health Service. In addition to that project, I was able to gain some experience in clinical dietetics (e.g. reviewing patients in the hospital wards), and conduct a small group education session for a mental health group.

I had significant personal growth and skill development as a result of my placement experience in Orange. In terms of skill development towards becoming a qualified dietitian, I was able to work independently, improve my sense of self-confidence, interact with a diverse range of individuals, develop my communication skills, add to my current knowledge-base in nutrition and dietetics, and gain experience in working within a multidisciplinary team. As this was my first placement in a professional hospital setting, I was initially very nervous and uncomfortable when interacting with my supervisors and other hospital staff. However, as my placement progressed, I gained significant self-confidence and was able to be more familiar and comfortable with the hospital environment and procedures. I gained confidence to actively contribute to the multidisciplinary team, liaising with key stakeholders such as food service managers, food service staff and nursing staff, regarding potential changes to better accommodate the needs and preferences of maternity unit patients in the provision of food service.

An eye-opening experience for me on placement was interacting with individuals that were not that receptive to dietetics care. At university, we were never really told about how to deal with patients who do not want to see you or do not want to talk to you.

In general, I was able to add significant value to my knowledge-base in nutrition and dietetics and develop my critical thinking skills, by conducting a literature review, observing the food service system in the hospital, conducting surveys to determine patient perceptions and attitudes towards provision of food service in the hospital, using guidelines to determine adequacy of the food service system and conducting a tray wastage audit. I was then able to further develop my problem-solving skills by collecting, analysing and interpreting all this information to inform recommendations for improvement of food service in the maternity unit of Orange Health Service.

An eye-opening experience for me on placement was interacting with individuals that were not that receptive to dietetics care. At university, we were never really told about how to deal with patients who do not want to see you or do not want to talk to you.

Being able to gain experience in a real hospital setting, I realised that dietitians are often turned away by patients, as patients either do not know what dietitians do or nutrition is usually not a high priority for them. Therefore, I was able to develop my skills in advocating the role of a dietitian and felt tasked with the role of proving its value in a clinical setting. Furthermore, being able to provide nutrition education in a group setting to a mental health population was a very rewarding experience. I was very nervous about this task initially as this group is often very difficult to engage and I felt inexperienced in tailoring my communication to their needs. However, with the assistance of encouraging supervisors, I was able to develop a fun, engaging group nutrition session that was very well-received by the attendees, which was a very rewarding experience.

In terms of personal growth, I was able to learn a lot about myself, in particular my strengths and weaknesses, while on placement in Orange. During this placement, I was required to live in shared accommodation with a group of individuals who I did not know, with limited Internet access and heating facilities (during the coldest month in Orange!). Overall, the experience made me realise that I am capable of a lot more than I initially realised or thought I ever was.

I would like to sincerely thank ACEN for their generous financial contribution as it has allowed me to have a more enjoyable and valuable placement experience. This additional support allowed me to immerse myself in the local community of Orange and actively contribute to improving the nutritional status of the population. I am very grateful that I was able to conduct valuable work in nutrition and dietetics in such an amazing regional town, as well as learn from an experienced team of supervisors. The skills and knowledge that I have gained from this placement have significantly contributed to my career aspirations of becoming a capable, influential, knowledgeable and motivated dietitian that provides nutrition-related care to patients in need.

Placement at Naturaliste Community Health

Placement at Naturaliste Community Health

ACEN student scholarship

Speech pathology placement experience at Naturaliste Community Health

2017 ACEN Student Scholarship Work Integrated Learning: Reflection

My recent speech pathology placement experience at Naturaliste Community health has been an exponential learning curve for me. Not only did the placement provide practical experience related to my course of study, but it also taught me to think more holistically about the clients I am seeing. Within a regional or rural area, the population does not have the same access to resources that the metropolitan area has. I was taught to think about how I can use the resources around me more effectively to provide a service that was effective and sustainable. I was also challenged by the limitations of the service I can provide based on my knowledge and training when considering the range of needs expressed by the regional population. This grew a desire within me to expand my skills beyond their current scope, to seek additional professional development and expertise in order to address a broader scope of impairments or difficulties that can impact speech, language, communication and swallowing.

My work integrated learning placement also taught me about how theory doesn’t always work perfectly, and your session or treatment will not always go as planned …

For example, the speech pathologists at Naturaliste community health are all trained to screen ear health. This is an important factor that can impact the development of children’s speech and language skills, and children are often referred for delayed speech development as a result of recurrent ear infections and/or hearing loss. Audiologists are scarce in the south-west region, and people are often required to travel great distances to have their hearing tested or treated. Being able to screen a child’s ear health is extremely informative for planning whether or not further audiology is necessary, or to determine whether their hearing really is having an impact on their speech. It informs the treatment decisions and provides feedback to parents directly, rather than waiting for specialist appointments or booking to see a doctor. This has made me pursue further training in this area.

My work integrated learning placement also taught me about how theory doesn’t always work perfectly, and your session or treatment will not always go as planned or in the ideal manner you might hope for. This taught me flexibility in my treatment plans, and gave me skills to consider how I can tailor assessment and treatment goals specifically to the client by considering their everyday environment and the factors that might be influencing them.

This placement taught me how to work collaboratively with other team members of the same or different professions to provide an effective service. I also learned how to liaise and plan treatment goals with parents and school teachers to provide effective, personalised therapy provision for clients. It gave me a broader understanding of all the people who have a role in the client’s life and how they can support them.

I learned how to manage my caseload independently. As noted earlier, resources are limited in regional areas and that includes work professionals! All the clinicians have a large caseload and lots of clients. But this also included all the paperwork and planning that goes along with seeing each client. I learned how to prioritise, plan my time effectively, and most of all, how to say no to things that I thought would be too much for me. Naturally, I am someone who always wants to say yes, but I have learned that prioritising in order to provide the best service possible is more effective than stretching yourself too thin.

This was an amazing experience, and I will take so many of these skills I’ve learned with me throughout my career. I’m forever grateful for ACEN’s support and encouragement to pursue this work integrated learning experience. It was such a blast! Thank you.

4th year speech pathology student, Curtin University