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Student group visits NT schools

She may be months away from graduating and securing a job in her industry of choice, but that hasn’t stopped Amy Reif advocating about a career in physiotherapy. In May, she visited the Northern Territory to attend high schools to inspire students to become health professionals. Amy (pictured right) and five other students were selected nationally for the Northern Territory Rural High School Visits Program, funded by the Australian Government under the Primary Health Network Program.

The primary aim of the annual program is to encourage teenagers in rural areas to remain at school and consider health careers and options available to them through tertiary education. For the fourth-year student from Charles Sturt University in Orange, the trip reinforced that she had made the right choice for her own career.

‘I have always had an interest in health and being active. At school, I knew I wanted a career that would help others, using a hands-on approach. Physiotherapy has such a wide scope of practice— a person has an injury, deformity or disease, and you help them get the most out of life through education and movement. It’s very rewarding,’ Amy says. ‘The week visiting the Northern Territory transformed me. I had recently done a placement that was uninspiring and super-repetitive, but on this trip, I used so many skills that I had learnt and was able to share so much with others. Hopefully, I inspired others to choose physiotherapy like I have.’

The travelling contingent spoke to about 300 students who were predominantly of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander heritage. Amy says students in rural and remote areas face many challenges in moving to a metropolitan area to study.

‘It reinforced for me that working in a rural area is a special opportunity. But for students, there is a lot involved in moving away from the home you know and are comfortable in for study. Some barriers in choosing to pursue higher education include money, marks, moving, motivation and mates. We wanted to inspire them and show that if they did want to be in a health profession there is plenty of support to help them get there.’

In her presentation, Amy, 25, educated students about the typical tools of the trade that would be found on a physiotherapist’s ‘desk’. These included a TENS machine, wobble board, crutches, X-rays, tendon hammers and anatomical models.

‘We also spoke about the importance of good communication and listening to patients,’ she says.

The team of advocates upskilled through meetings with local doctors, tours of Royal Darwin and Katherine hospitals and an Aboriginal Medical Service.

‘It was good to reinforce what I have learned and why I am doing it,’ the Australian Army Reservist says. ‘I am at the pointy end of my degree so will soon be looking for a job. It was beneficial to speak with doctors and clinicians from various health disciplines about career options and working in rural and remote areas. Applying for physiotherapy jobs in the Northern Territory is an option now that I have participated in this program.’

Another option is transferring to the Australian Army.

‘That’s the beauty of studying physiotherapy—it can open many doors and career pathways. I would encourage other university students to apply for this program next year. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there, build your public profile, speak with as many people as possible about careers in health and be inspired to share that knowledge with others.’

Marina Williams


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