Physiotherapy Placement in Weipa

Student Reflection

Course: 

Bachelor of Physiotherapy (Hons)

Placement Location:

Northern Territory

Year of Placement:

2022

Having grown up in metropolitan cities, working in a rural community is something that I have always wanted to gain more first-hand experience in. When I found out about a potential placement in Cape York, I knew I had to give it a go, and I was really glad that I jumped at the opportunity and undertook a five-week physiotherapy placement in Weipa.

Being in a remote community I was exposed to a very diverse caseload – from outpatient clinic, to inpatient wards, residential aged care, and community falls prevention group. Having only completed placements in a metropolitan setting where patients are often managed by different physiotherapy specialties, being a generalist in a rural hospital was a steep learning curve to start with. My clinical educator, who is the only physiotherapist in Weipa, took us under his wings and provided valuable insights into working rurally as an allied health practitioner. Through his mentorship and guidance, I was given the opportunity to manage my own caseload, whilst developing the essential communication and practical skills. During my placement, I was able to work closely with other disciplines, including occupational therapy and speech pathology to provide multi-disciplinary care to patients. Being in a small team also meant all the staff knew each other on a first name basis, which made collaborative practice much more effective. I have gained confidence in various areas of clinical practice over the five weeks, which helped tremendously in preparing me for my next placement and future career.

Another unique aspect of completing a placement in Weipa was that we had the opportunity to spend time at outreach clinics in Napranum and Mapoon, the two Indegenous communities near Weipa. It gave me invaluable insights into the health inequality and barriers to accessing healthcare faced by Australians living in remote communities. All students received cultural awareness training when we first arrived in Weipa, which was really helpful when interacting with Indigenous patients. I realised how little I knew about the cultural practices that might influence the Indigenous approach to healthcare, and I was very grateful for being accepted to the land and being invited to have a ‘yarn’ with the Indigenous patients while they shared their tales with us (‘Having a yarn’ means ‘having a chat’).

I am grateful for the support provided through the ACEN scholarship, which hugely relieved the financial pressures associated with travelling and the loss of income as a result of completing a placement away from home. It allowed me to fully immerse myself in the experience and focus on developing valuable skills for my future career. This opportunity has reaffirmed my career aspiration of working in rural Queensland, and has sparked my interest in Indigenous health.