Growing a Rural Health Career

03 May 2021

Jenna Perry Interview

Meet Jenna Perry, a former GROW Rural participant who recently joined Gidgee Healing in Mount Isa as a Dietician. Jenna was kind enough to talk about her experience on the GROW Rural Central Queensland program and how her experience shaped her career.


What is your favorite memory from GROW?

One of my favourite memories from GROW Rural is visiting the Aboriginal community Woorabinda in Central Queensland. We were lucky enough to be taken for a tour around the community by the local elders and had the opportunity to listen to community members share their stories about both the challengers and enablers to their health and wellbeing.

What interested you in GROW?

Growing up in a rural town in Tasmania and studying dietetics, I was always interested in rural health. I saw GROW as an opportunity to learn the necessary skills required to provide high quality and patient centered care in a rural or remote QLD setting.

Is there anything you learnt from GROW that will assist you in your position at Gidgee Healing in Mount Isa?

Yes, the importance of taking the time to build relationships and trust with community.

Did you see yourself working rurally prior to participating in GROW?

Yes, I always wanted to work in a rural or remote setting prior to commencing GROW, however, GROW confirmed that it was definitely something I wanted to pursue after graduating. I always thought I should wait until I had a few years of experience after graduating, but GROW opened my eyes to the opportunities and support when working in a remote setting as a recent graduate.

What was it about the Dietitian role at Gidgee Healing that appealed to you?

I have always wanted to work in the area of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and am very passionate about providing culturally safe and responsive health care. Gidgee Healing is an Aboriginal Controlled Health Service, which provides holistic health care services that are guided by the needs of community.

Have you found the transition to working in Mount Isa easier given your previous participation in GROW?

Yes, I believe so. GROW instilled the importance of being community minded and building relationships when working in a rural or remote setting.

Why should others participate in GROW?

I believe it’s a great way to make friends and connections with students and staff from both medical and allied health backgrounds and gain an understanding of how we can work together. Since starting my role at Gidgee Healing, I have reconnected with two students from GROW who are currently working in Mount Isa. Knowing people from a previous positive experience makes moving to a new location a whole lot easier.

What are your favourite things about working rurally?

There are a few things: 1) Social life. Mount Isa is a very social community. Since moving here, I have started salsa classes, and started training for the local Gregory Canoe Race. 2) Every day is different. I enjoy the fact that things don’t run how you are taught through a textbook at university. It’s exciting to be able to adapt what you have learnt in a university. 3) I believe we have so much to learn from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture and perspectives and I am grateful to be in the position to experience that.

In your opinion what are the differences in working rural than metro? Are there additional skills you need?

The main differences I have found in Mount Isa are a greater exposure to more complex and broad cases, generous support to undertake professional development, and limited access and availability to specialized health services. Additionally, Mount Isa has a high population of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and therefore the approach to healthcare provided by Gidgee Healing is much more holistic, with a strong focus on culturally safe and responsive care.

In regard to additional skills, I believe adaptability, patience and the ability to be open minded are all crucial to working in a remote setting. Each day can be very different from one to the next, you have to be adaptable and patient with things not going to plan.