Health Students Embrace Unique Opportunities in North Queensland

12 May 2023

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Health Workforce Queensland’s GROW Rural North Queensland (NQ) program is in full swing with the 2022-2024 cohort gathering for their second annual event in the Tablelands. GROW Rural is an end-to-end rural health workforce program for health students across all disciplines that creates supported employment pathways into primary health care settings for students as new graduates. The primary objective of this year's event was to allow the 23 participating students to re-establish existing connections with their Tableland billet families and clinical mentors, while also fostering new relationships with local health professionals and community members.

Following an early arrival at Cairns airport, the program kicked off with a visit to Mulungu Aboriginal Corporation Primary Health Care Service in Mareeba, where the students were divided into discipline groups to observe health professionals in a clinical setting. The Occupational Therapy and Speech Pathology students attended an insightful session at The Whole Child Clinic in Atherton. Many students commented that these sessions were an absolute highlight of the trip.

After a busy morning, the students enjoyed some downtime which allowed them to explore the Mareeba township before regrouping at Mareeba Shire Council for afternoon tea with Mayor, Angela Toppin. The warm welcome given to the students by Mayor Toppin reflected the high regard in which Tableland communities hold the GROW Rural program.

Local residents, Leah Stevenson and Louise Livingstone, who have come on board as GROW Rural NQ’s Health Workforce Connectors, teamed up with Caro Finlay from Health Workforce Queensland (HWQ) to lead an informative and engaging round table discussion. The topic at hand was how GROW Rural collaborates with local practices and health services to grow future employment options in the region. Leah and Louise enthusiastically offered their assistance to help students locate available roles upon graduation, while Caro provided a valuable overview of HWQ’s job support services. This discussion was an excellent opportunity for students to ask questions and gain valuable insights into potential employment prospects.

The first day of the program ended on a high note with an enjoyable dinner and trivia quiz held at the Mareeba Bowls Club. Attendees were grouped into multidisciplinary teams consisting of students, billet families, and mentors, where their collective health knowledge was tested. The combination of laughter and good-natured competition was a memorable way to wrap up the day's events and contributed to everyone’s strong sense of camaraderie.

Day two saw the group travel to the town of Herberton. Students disembarked the bus and were able to discover a living museum known as the Historic Village Herberton. The museum showcases the history and heritage of the region through a collection of over 50 restored buildings and thousands of authentic artifacts.

Following the visit to Herberton, we made our way to Destiny Café & Convention Centre in Atherton, where the students participated in multidisciplinary skill sessions based on the theme of disordered eating. It was ‘amazing to see the collaboration between the health professionals from different disciplines throughout the sessions’ stated Andy van der Rijt, HWQ Service Delivery Manager.

High school students from Atherton, Ravenshoe and Herberton, plus JCU medical students on placement in the immediate area were also in attendance and joined the rotating groups throughout the morning.

Following the skill sessions, the students met their billet families who were keen for the GROW Rural students to experience rural hospitality. Later that evening, the students and billet families joined local health professionals for a dinner of pizza and pasta in Yungaburra. This was an excellent opportunity for everyone to catch up and chat in a relaxed and informal setting.

After a morning of activities with their billet families, it was time for the students to say farewell before commencing our final day relaxing in the surroundings of Millaa Millaa Falls. Before long, it was time to board the bus and make our way back to Cairns and then home.

Thank you to our Event Partner, Northern Queensland Primary Health Network (NQPHN), participating health students, local health professionals and community members for such a memorable weekend.

We feel the following quote, provided by a GROW Rural student, sums up what we achieved together over the weekend: ‘When I think about my future career as an allied health professional, the GROW Rural events are the most informative and influential experiences guiding my decision making’.

View photos from the weekend