Date: November 2023
University: University of Southern Queensland
Field of Study: Master of Clinical Psychology
Meet Anita Smith, a dedicated psychologist who has been positively impacting lives in rural and regional areas for more than two decades.
Settled in the South Burnett since 2019, she's currently pursuing her Master of Clinical Psychology with a placement at a private practice in Kingaroy.
Anita's experience with an SQRH placement highlights the effectiveness of rural training, allowing her the flexibility to grow professionally, while minimising any disruption to everyday family life.
Anita, why did you decide to pursue a master’s degree?
I figured I was about halfway into my career, and I started contemplating future aspirations and how to maintain momentum. For me, this was a way to solidify and gain formal recognition for the years of experience I have from working in regional and rural health.
Was there also an element of you understanding the needs of rural communities?
Yes. For example, there's probably only one other clinical psychologist practising in the South Burnett region right now. And with one person in one role, there’s obviously strict criteria around case load. So that extra clinical expertise is highly valued and needed in these areas.
Tell me about your placement.
Traditionally, placement for a master’s lasts around six months of two to three days per week. But I have been lucky to be offered a flexible arrangement, reducing those days, and slowing the pace. I’ve also been supported by Queensland Health to temporarily reduce my permanent work hours while I'm on placement, which has helped.
Your situation is unique in that you’re already a part of the community you’re doing your placement in.
Yes. Kingaroy is close to home.
I grew up in Dirranbandi and we have always valued that country lifestyle. We live in a beautiful setting, with space for the kids to do activities like bush walking, kayaking, or fishing on the weekend. There's plenty of beautiful wineries and nice places to eat and always lots of social activities.
Our kids go to school here. We’re also involved in sports, so we know the other kids and we have formed relationships with them and their families.
That immersion in the community also makes a difference from a professional perspective.
What are some of the advantages of practising in a rural community?
Working for Queensland Health in regional and rural, I have a lot of experience working as part of a multidisciplinary team, with lots of interprofessional collaboration and some lovely opportunities that you wouldn’t get anywhere else.
Can we discuss some of the challenges?
We don't have a lot of people who live here on the ground. So, accessibility and continuation of care is one of the biggest challenges. It can potentially create barriers, particularly for young people with complex problems.
It changes the way you practise. You tend to focus on how you can deliver a service in a way that is helpful to the community, acknowledging what their real-life barriers are. And that could be as simple as not having public transport in Kingaroy or no mail service in Cherbourg, to more complex issues.
Would you recommend a rural placement to students?
Yes 100%. Especially to my colleagues looking to further their study, while staying close to home. Many of them have asked me whether it’s possible, particularly when they have younger kids. The flexibility of my placement shows that you can do it. I would recommend it.
What does the future look like for you Anita?
There’s a lot of ongoing work, development, and supervision before I can call myself a clinical psychologist. And I think it’s the case that once I’m there, there’s always something more to do. I’ll be forever learning.
From Toowoomba to Charleville, Kingaroy to Goondiwindi, our students’ complete rural placements all over regional, rural, and remote Southern Queensland (across more than 400,000 square kilometres).
Learn first-hand from students, just like yourself, about their experience going on a rural placement, and why it’s an experience like no other!