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Benefits of Rural Life Revealed

Thursday 14 November, 2013

Benefits of Rural Life Revealed for Future Health Professionals

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Rural Future: Healthcare students (left to right) Nikki Waterkamp, Natalie MacKinnon, Tessa Linwood, Alicia Clarke, Alexi Peitre, Adrienne Pinmental, Kelly Nunn and Rebecca Lickfold experience a day at a dairy farm as part of the Rural Health Inter-professional Immersion Project.

Encouraging the next generation of rural health professionals is the goal of a ground-breaking project being run in the Eastern Bay of Plenty.

The Rural Health Inter-professional Immersion Project (RHIIP) has been developed collaboratively, by Auckland and Otago Universities, as a response to the growing issue of healthcare shortages in New Zealand’s rural communities.

It aims to help students appreciate the benefits of a rural healthcare career, learn together with other disciplines, and give greater exposure to working with Māori patients, said project administrator Lyndell Jones.

“A lot of the RHIIP students have commented that after taking part in the programme they would now like to live and work rurally,” she said.

“It is also great to see the students come out the end of the programme with the confidence to communicate with health professionals from other disciplines. It’s a real advantage in the workplace as they appreciate and better understand their colleague’s roles.”

Over six-week periods, eight students from wide-ranging healthcare backgrounds – including medicine, nursing, physiotherapy, occupational therapy and pharmacy - live together and work together in a rural setting near Whakatane.

Leonie Wakefield was a Year Three nursing student at Rotorua’s Waiariki Institute of Technology when she took part in the project’s inaugural 2012 class.

“I thought it would be a good experience and a chance to help our rural communities; to understand their dynamics, their issues, and how we can assist them,” said the registered nurse who now works at Te Tohu o Te Ora o Ngati Awa, an Eastern Bay Maori social and health services provider.

More than 40 future healthcare workers, predominantly from the University of Auckland and the Waiariki Institute of Technology, have participated in the program run by the Bay of Plenty District Health Board’s Clinical School.

The program helps demonstrate that conventional career pathways through the ranks at urban-based hospitals are not the only option.

“It shows there’s another way and all those things you think you need from a city life, it’s not necessarily the case,” said Ms Wakefield. “In many ways you can get much more from working in a rural community environment.”

Academic oversight for the project is provided by Carley Jones, a registered nurse based at Whakatane Hospital, and Opotiki GP Dr Jo Scott-Jones. Dr Scott-Jones emphasised RHIIP’s strengths.

"This initiative addresses a number of educational imperatives for health professionals, inter-professional teamwork, rural and Maori health as well as chronic care management," he said. 

"Inter-professional education is part of an international movement, acknowledging the importance of teamwork and team development in health services." 

Support for the program has been gratefully received from community groups, health organisations, local GPs, St Johns, Whakatane Fire Brigade and hospital staff. The programme is funded by Health Workforce New Zealand up until the end of 2014.


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