Going Rural Health program partners with Creswick Primary School to provide student placements

In 2021, despite the chaos experienced for student placements as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Going Rural Health program (within the University of Melbourne’s Department of Rural Health) proudly partnered with Creswick Primary School to explore the possibility of allied health student placements at this mainstream school.

In April 2021, supported by the Going Rural Health program the Creswick Primary School hosted its first Occupational Therapy (OT) placement and this was followed by a further two OT placements in the year. The students, guided by external supervisors, experienced multiple learning opportunities whilst providing needed services to the staff and pupils of Creswick Primary.

A highly valued aspect of the placement were education sessions developed by the students and delivered to the staff on topics which included ‘The role of OT in mainstream schooling’; ‘Sensory integration’ and ‘How OT can support various paediatric developmental challenges?’. Students developed and ran a gross motor program to support gross motor development of pupils in the early grades who had spent many hours at home during lockdown. Students benefited from the interprofessional exposure they had working alongside teachers in the classroom, supporting pupils with skills such as pencil grip and correct seating.

A highlight of one of the placements was a funding proposal developed by two students for a sensory garden at the school which described the many benefits of such a garden for pupil wellbeing, academic learning opportunities and environmental sustainability.

To end the year on a wonderful note, the school – supported by the Going Rural Health program – expanded the program and hosted their first University of Melbourne Physiotherapy placement. Once again, the staff and pupils welcomed all that this discipline brought to their school through the amazing efforts of the student and their external supervisor. Whilst learning discipline-specific paediatric skills the student provided education on how to incorporate physiotherapy into everyday classroom activities to enhance gross and fine motor development, provided individually tailored exercise programs to pupils, and identified where pupils may benefit from further NDIS support.

In 2022, the Going Rural Health program is delighted to be building upon the success of last year and will be continuing to support the school to host Occupational Therapy, Physiotherapy and Social Work student placements throughout the year. The combination of the dedicated contribution of staff at Creswick Primary School, committed academic staff from the students’ various departments, motivated and diligent students, and the Going Rural Health staff has resulted in a successful partnership which is enabling students from various health disciplines to undertake a meaningful placement in rural Victoria and develop a future workforce aware of the health needs in rural communities.