Health students go bush
Western Sydney University students, Charlie Sheedy and Dalena Pangna, have had the chance to put their healthcare skills in to practice in the remote Australian outback, as two of six participants from across Australia selected for the Central Australian Remote Aboriginal Health (CARAH) Health Leadership (opens in a new window) program in the Northern Territory.
Charlie and Dalena, from the University's School of Science and Health, saw firsthand the health challenges facing the rural and remote communities of the Northern Territory, and were able to use the skills they have learned from their studies to assist in delivering healthcare services.
Charlie, a Bachelor of Health Science (Paramedicine) student, and Dalena, a Bachelor of Physiotherapy student, certainly experienced a different world to their lives in suburban NSW, witnessing the isolation that many remote communities face when seeking medical treatment.
"It was eye opening in terms of the services available and the distance that people have to travel to access those services. In really remote areas, people have to be flown in to receive healthcare," Charlie says.
They were also able to develop a deeper understanding of Indigenous culture through interactions and workshops with community leaders. Charlie and Dalena learnt about Indigenous culture in a health context and how interactions can be tailored to a patient's culture.
"I've learnt about Indigenous culture before, but experiencing it firsthand was better than reading it in a book. Having the opportunity to chat to an Indigenous elder was fantastic, and being taught by an elder was unbelievable.
"We discussed the health gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. The statistics around that gap are mind-boggling. Discussions with the Indigenous elder gave me better context around the health gap, and how we can work cross-culturally to close it."
Both Charlie and Dalena say they found the program challenging but extremely rewarding.
"For people to work in this environment, you need to be really passionate. It's challenging and it really tests you to work with limited resources. I was surprised how multi-skilled health professionals are from working in rural areas," says Dalena.
Charlie and Dalena now have plans to practice in rural healthcare upon graduation. After witnessing the clear disparity between healthcare in suburban and rural areas, they want to assist in breaking down the divide.
22 November 2016
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