Bachelor of Occupational Therapy
Year of Placement:
When I started studying my Bachelor of Occupational Therapy in 2019, I knew that a rural/remote placement was a requirement in my third year. “Third year,” I said to myself, “Well that’s years away.” Then, some three months ago, I was getting prepared to drive 10 hours into Western Queensland to a town called Charleville. I had never even heard of Charleville until it was allocated to me. At first, I had some concerns. How will I pay for this? Have I learnt enough to do this? Will my car even make it? Ultimately, with the support of my friends and family, I knew I would be fine, and off I went.
This was my first time in what I felt to be a clinical placement, having been at a primary school previously. I was nervous, but I was excited. I was with another student from my university which gave me reassurance and support that I would have someone who understood the experience I was having. During my placement, I saw a wide range of clients. From hand therapy after orthopaedic injuries, to oedema management, to home modification assessments, I saw what being an OT is really all about. And it made me that much more confident and happy in my choice of chosen career path.
I had the opportunity to work alongside two wonderful OTs, a SLP, a dietician, physiotherapist, AHAs, community health nurses and more. Every single person I encountered during placement was supportive and welcoming. It gave me such insight into the benefits of working within a multidisciplinary team and the importance of communication and intrapersonal skills. Not only did I experience working in a rural hospital – I also got to experience Charleville. From the Bilby Experience, to the rockpool outside of town, to the Cosmos Centre – Charleville became my home, so much so that I was genuinely sad to leave after 6 weeks.
I would say some of the key skills I developed during this placement were my information gathering and clinical reasoning skills. My supervisor was constantly challenging me to justify or discuss my intervention methods or treatment plans, providing feedback and support along the way. I frequently researched new conditions and evidence based practice to develop session plans for the clients on my caseload. This was something I had little experience doing in a real- world setting, but I feel that after 6 weeks I was really understanding the process. I also developed crucial rapport building skills and a better understanding of the public hospital system, funding bodies and processes/procedures that I might come across in my career.
This placement challenged me to reflect on my personal assumptions and biases. Prior to meeting some of my clients, I had already formed opinions about their conditions, occupational performance and function, and goals, before I even had a chance to find out who they were. This placement really showed me to treat every person as an open book, with a rich personal history and experiences. It also challenged my assumptions of what rural living and rural practice would be like. I was worried the community might not welcome me, or that I might feel uncomfortable in such a small town, but I was wrong on both counts.
Receiving the ACEN scholarship was an absolute blessing. It helped support my financially while on my placement. Being a full time student without work, I went into this placement with limited finances and a debt for my accommodation. The scholarship allowed me to pay this back in full, cover groceries and living expenses, fuel, and even accommodation on the way home. Without
this scholarship, I would have been incredibly stressed surrounding my financial situation, and may not have been able to have the experience I did, or give my all while on placement. Unequivocally, this scholarship allowed me to have the experience I did which has in turn lead to personal and professional skill development as a budding OT.
If you have the opportunity to go on a rural/remote placement, I would say absolutely do it. The experience I had was one in a lifetime and I would do it again in a heartbeat.