Melbourne to Mooroopna, audiology student's rural placement experience

Last month, University of Melbourne audiology students travelled from Melbourne to complete a fulfilling placement at Mooroopna Primary School, Mooroopna North Primary School and Mooroopna Park Primary School.

Over four days, the eight students completed 52 hearing screenings of children at the schools, sending letters to the children’s families explaining if there was any follow up required. The students worked with their remote supervisor, Patrick Bowers.

Richard Zhao Yang Liang and Nikolina Bonovac are two audiology students who were a part of this placement block. They both shared their personal experiences that gives a touching insight into how this rural placement has impacted them. Read about their time in Mooroopna below...

Audiology students, Richard Zhao Yang Liang (far left) and Nikolina Banovac (second from the right), with fellow University of Melbourne audiology students outside the University of Melbourne Shepparton campus.

Richard - audiology student, University of Melbourne

“I’m a bit of a Melbourne boy, I've spent the last ten to fifteen years in southeast Melbourne near Glen Waverley.  I love it there; love the community and I had never really thought about rural placements before. I was a musician for a number of years before moving to audiology, so it never really popped into mind about moving far away to do a placement.  I have a lot of family in Bendigo and Swan Hill so, growing up, my perspective of rural has been mixed in with a bit of city vibes as well.

Last week I came back from a rural placement in Shepparton. It was a research independent study project and about eight people came up with us to do hearing screenings on prep children in Mooroopna - a small town near Shepparton. We went to a couple of schools there to do hearing tests and I found it very challenging in a sense that Mooroopna, as a town, has a lot of challenges in their community.

It really opened my mind and my perspective and made me think ‘why am I doing audiology?’, ‘do I enjoy the comfort of being in metro?’ -  I think I do; I really enjoy doing placements here in the city as well. I just completed one recently at the Royal Children Hospital and I loved it, I love doing the hospital diagnostic stuff in the metro area but the kids in Mooroopna really touched my heart; their stories and their backgrounds. It really challenged me with what I want to do with my life.

If I’m able to serve communities like Mooroopna, I think it would be really valuable. That’s a lesson I learned just last week, and I wouldn’t have known about that if I didn’t have an opportunity to do a placement there.

So, for other allied health students, maybe rural isn’t what you’re thinking about at the moment but if you get a chance to go, you’ve got to go. To broaden you mind, broaden your perspective about what it’s like out there. It reminded me a lot about when I was younger and I grew up in rougher communities as well, and the friends I had back in the day. I would love to be a light for them, if I could, or people like them. That’s been the main takeaway, that’s my experience.”

Nikolina - audiology student, University of Melbourne

"My name is Nikolina (she/her), and I am currently in my final year of studying a Master of Clinical Audiology. I am part of a team of eight student Audiologists who are undertaking a research project on the prevalence of hearing loss in primary school-aged children. Over the last few months, we have been screening children’s hearing from several schools in Victoria, three of which were in Mooroopna, Shepparton. The screenings involve performing behavioural hearing tests, assessing the health of the outer and middle ears, and providing the children with results to take home to their caregivers.

For some of us on the team, this was our second time returning to Shepparton to perform hearing screenings. There is a great sense of community we feel every time we are in Shepparton. I grew up in Geelong, so I am no stranger to tight-knit communities, especially being so heavily involved in the Croatian community through teaching the language and volunteering at local clubs and on committees. Giving back to the community is something that I have prided myself on for many years, and being able to give back through Audiology, by improving access to healthcare and helping to address the health disparities in rural areas like Shepparton, is something that I would like to dedicate the rest of my working career to.

Researching the prevalence of hearing loss in primary school-aged children is an area that I have a particularly keen interest in, given my prior experience working in an education support role at a school in a low-SES area. Working one-on-one with children who had varying degrees of speech and language development delays that ongoing middle ear pathologies had contributed to, was my first interaction with Audiology as a discipline and its critical role in the development of communication skills in children.

The hearing screenings that we perform in Shepparton and other rural communities have the potential to detect hearing loss in children that otherwise may have gone undetected, due to these communities being underserviced from a healthcare perspective. By detecting these issues, appropriate management can occur, and interventions can be put in place for the child. A plethora of research has been done in this area, as Audiologists and health professionals all over the world recognise the importance of detecting hearing loss as early as possible, given the potential that it has to impact whole-of-life outcomes. Being part of the group that can see tangible and direct community benefits is extremely rewarding as an Audiology student. I would highly recommend these rural placements to anyone who is considering pursuing a career in healthcare as you obtain a broader appreciation for the different types of circumstances affecting individuals, and how those circumstances have ramifications on their health and their livelihoods."

We thank Richard and Nikolina for sharing their experiences and thank all the audiology students for their contribution to rural health. To learn more about our rural nursing and allied health placements visit:

Going Rural Health

Going Rural Health is an initiative run by the University of Melbourne, Department of Rural Health.

Through funding from the Australian Government Rural Health Multidisciplinary Training program, our programs have been developed to support students enrolled in a nationally recognised nursing, allied health or other health science undergraduate or postgraduate degree at any Australian University.*

*(Financial support is subject to eligibility)

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