GROW Rural SWQ 2020-2022 Cohort Graduation

27 October 2022

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Our 2020-2022 GROW Rural South West Queensland (SWQ) health students celebrated their graduation from the immersion program with a star-studded dinner held at Hotel Corones in Charleville, on Saturday 15th October. The students spent the final year together with four days in Charleville exploring the RFDS base, Charleville Hospital, clinical sessions at SQRH and sampling bush medicines among many other activities.

The group of 13 students squeezed on to a tiny plane with the HWQ crew, for the two- and half-hour flight from Brisbane to Charleville. On arrival we took over the airport to get reacquainted before Steve, our bus driver, led us to the luxury coach, our wheels for the long weekend.

First stop was CWAATSICH, a community controlled Aboriginal Medical Service (AMS),where we met the team and Board members who shared their stories with the students. We were warmly Welcomed to Country with a smoking ceremony, enjoyed way too much lunch (a theme that would run throughout the entire trip), then settled in for a good yarn, learning about health care and life in this rural community. We toured the health facility, then learnt about bush medicine with Pat, the Social and Emotional Wellbeing Liaison Officer. We were eager to indulge in Gumbi Gumbi with the suggestion that it may produce softer, smoother skin the following day (but I think a little more sleep is also required). Indigenous artist, Alara Geebung, helped us to discover our creative side with an Aboriginal stencil painting activity, that we excelled at, if we do say so ourselves! Our evening was spent with Shane and Wayne. As in Shane Webcke and Wayne Bennett! They had some wise words to share on mental illness and entertained what appeared to be the entire population of Charleville inside of the quaint and cosy Charleville Golf Club. Our home for the first two nights of our stay was the Charleville Motel, who were very welcoming.

The following morning was spent with Charleville State High School students at their regular Friday Breakfast Club. It was wonderful meeting the staff and students at the school and seeing what the students had in mind beyond high school. The rest of the morning we toured the RFDS base, including one of their planes, which was a big highlight. The students split into two groups and took part in an aeromedical retrieval scenario which involved transporting a paediatric patient from Augathella to Charleville. Jo and Charles from the RFDS passed on so much knowledge and insight into the amazing work they do for the RFDS and the kind of call outs they experience, and they had us in stitches, pardon the pun. Next it was off to our event partner, Southern Queensland Rural Health’s (SQRH)office in Charleville. The contemporary layout provided a very welcome space for the day’s clinical sessions, which continued the aeromedical retrieval theme. The GROW Rural students broke into groups to follow the ‘patient’ journey through the Emergency Department where students got to try their hand at cannulation. Other group sessions included paediatrics, rehabilitation and Indigenous health. The debrief that followed showed how beneficial the students found these sessions to experience how different disciplines all contribute to patient care. The evening was spent at the Cosmos Centre for a fabulous dinner and lesson in stars and planets at the planetarium. Our host was very informative and didn’t mind our giggles when discussing certain planets and rings of gas.

For two eager students, Saturday began early by joining the local Park Run. What a stunning morning, with low lying mist blanketing the park. For everyone else, Saturday began a bit later with the Charleville Bilby Experience, where we all fell in love with the cute little creatures and therefore shopped up a storm in the gift shop where funds raised go toward researching and caring for the bilby. Back to work, we toured the Charleville Hospital, then back to SQRH for a team-building activity using puzzle boxes, which each group solved quicker than expected. Finally, it was time to meet with the students billet families. These are local families who generously offered to accommodate the students so they could get a taste of rural life and provide the opportunity to get to feel part of the Charleville community. The families, and our local friends and colleagues, joined the students for their graduation dinner that evening, to celebrate the ‘rising stars’. There were two speeches from the students, in which they articulated just how valuable GROW Rural South West Queensland has been for them. One of the students, Joshua Doan, who initially held some reservations about rural practice said, 'from what I have been able to observe during my time in Charleville, Roma, and St George, is just how tight knit everyone in each community is. It is very evident to me that life in rural towns is not as lonely as I thought, but in fact very supportive.' In regards to rural health care, Joshua said 'the common thread that particularly resonated with me is the active inter-professional collaboration between doctors and other allied health professionals. I'm so used to there being a clear hierarchy and separation between everyone working at a hospital and it truly was refreshing to see every healthcare professional being treated as equals and comfortable enough to ask each other for help'. After another wonderful feast, some graduation photos, conversations and laughs, the students headed to their billets home for the evening. 

Sunday morning, we all gathered again at Graham Andrew Parkland to say goodbye to the billet families and take way too many photos on the big red chair. After a chat with Chris and Cathie, who were the relief managers at the Charleville Motel, to learn about their interesting rural lives (involving touring with Slim Dusty no less!) and it was off to Charleville Airport for our flights home. A few of the students though already have plans to come back.

We’d like to give our heartfelt thanks and appreciation to the billet families, the health professionals and community members who spent so much time with us all and imparted their knowledge and personal stories to further our understanding of health care and life in the bush. Special thanks to SQRH for supporting this program and offering your time and space for much of the activities.