Fostering professional relationships rurally

Beaufort Skipton OT student facilitating

The University of Melbourne’s Going Rural Health team has been supporting nursing and allied health placements in rural Victoria for the last five years and has developed a great partnership with Beaufort and Skipton Health Services (BSHS), particularly for the placement of physiotherapy and occupational therapy students.

With a population of just over 2000 people living in Beaufort and Skipton, students report feeling welcomed and supported by the local community. Ordinarily, physiotherapy students work with physiotherapists at BSHS to provide much-needed services to the community as they work in the hostel, transitional care program and the community. But with the challenges presented by COVID-19 in 2020, BSHS and Going Rural Health pivoted to hosting online placements that involved physiotherapy students providing professional support to aged care staff experiencing various musculoskeletal challenges.

Beaufort Skipton OT students pressure care

Meanwhile, occupational therapy students have had the opportunity to provide one-on-one interventions in aged care as well as run groups for residents improving their sense of wellbeing. One occupational therapy student developed an educational resource on how to ensure that elderly people remained socially connected during the pandemic. The support of management and the allied health professionals at BSHS ensured that students do not only have a solid learning experience but that they too experience the benefit of being contributors to the health of the staff and clients in this rural area of Victoria.

In 2021, BSHS will again host 12 physiotherapy students along with occupational therapy and social work students. These students, as with previous students, will have the opportunity to develop an understanding of rural health and interdisciplinary work while developing their dementia care knowledge and understanding of needs of people living in a rural setting. BSHS has proven to be a health service which values the role that students play in their health service as well as the need for our clinicians of the future to be able to address rural health needs.