Date: August 2023
University: University of Queensland
Field of Study: Social Work
We sat down with third year UQ Bachelor of Social Work student Fuchsia while they were on placement in Dalby to ask all about their experience and their future.
How have you found your placement Fuchsia?
It has been really good! I've been really lucky with this placement. It is a really great team. I've got to take on like a lot of responsibility and a lot of independent case load as well. For my first placement, I feel really lucky.
What made you choose this placement at Dalby Hospital?
I'm pretty interested in living rurally, so I wanted to give it a go through placement.
Do you have a rural background yourself?
Not really, but growing up, we did ride horses. We went to lots of horse events and country towns. I'm also just attracted to the quieter, slower pace of life.
And so you're from Brisbane?
Yes I grew up in Brisbane and Ipswich.
Has this placement made you think that you would possibly take up a position rurally once you graduated?
Definitely, I'm still thinking of going rural.
With it being your first time to Dalby, what were your first impressions?
I was actually surprised by how much that there was. I feel like it's a good rural place to go if you're used to the city because it's not particularly isolated. There are three grocery stores. It is not what I expected, in terms of a country town. I was thinking that there wouldn't be much on but there's a lot happening in Dalby and also in the towns surrounding it too.
Have you got to experience much of those kind of things while you've been here?
Yes, I went to the Dalby Show and I went to this opera at Jimbour House, which was about a 20 minute drive. And they have this historical house that they do events at. I've been to Bell a couple of times and I went to the Bunya Mountains on the weekend, so that was really nice, and I went to the markets there.
Have you been staying in student accommodation?
The first half of my placement I was at the at the hospital accommodation. And then the second half, I've been at a med student house, run by Griffith University, which SQRH helped me to get.
It's definitely I think improved my experience being in an actual house. It's nice to go home to my house and there are other people. I've only been living with med students, so that's interesting too, because they have a really different way of approaching things and different things they see, so it's interesting to share stories.
What about the work that you've been doing here? Can you talk me through the kind of things you would be doing each day?
A lot of our work is on the acute ward. A lot of the work we do is with older people who are going through life changes. I plan with them if they're going to go home, or if they can't. I help them and their family with that process. There is also a lot of work supporting people through NDIS processes.
Is that quite rewarding?
Yeah, it's really nice. Sometimes we will go to ED if there's someone in crisis and they're asking for social work support. Occasionally we might get referrals for the maternity ward, and we also do outreach to other sites so Tara and Oakey, which are much smaller hospitals and we also do a little bit of outpatient work as well. So there's quite a variety.
Is it something that you would like to do on graduation, working in a hospital setting?
I'm actually pretty interested in going into like child and youth mental health, which I already work in, but I got to shadow the child and youth mental health social worker one day, and that kind of cemented that, that is probably the path I want to go down.
How have you found it in terms of looking at social work in a in a rural setting. Has there been any kind of eye opening for you in terms of what people in rural areas have access to?
I was already aware of the service gaps but when you're actually experiencing that living in that community and trying to support people, to access services and resources when there aren't any. Or when they have to travel long distances to access something. It's different than just knowing that that problem exists, when you're actually also experiencing it and trying to work with it. And having that real appreciation for what that actually like feels like and what it actually results.
I wondered if you would talk about your experience coming to a rural area as a non-binary person.
Well, I haven't actually outed myself to the team or the hospital. I wasn't sure how that would be received. There are openly queer people on the team. I also was at a stakeholders meeting for community services and I met the police LGBTI liaison officer who is supporting the LGBTIQ+ community here.
When I go into practise, my intention is to be out but I think just being a student, I was sort of like, well, I don't know how that's going to go. And there is so much other things you're navigating and focusing on. Whereas I feel like when I'm a social worker, I will be open. I think mental health workplaces are also open and accepting to diversity.
I wanted to highlight it in the article as well because I feel like it could be quite a fear for some people taking on a replacement.
I think a lot of my friends were like “oh why would you want to go there?”. I think that there was this assumption that people maybe wouldn't be accepting.
Overall I've found people here really welcomed me. Particularly on the Allied Health team, I've developed friendships with people. I went for dinner with someone last night, and I've been to Park Run and breakfast with people. I think that people are really welcoming, especially if you're new to a place. I think as well if you put yourself out there and be open to being welcomed.
What would you say to other students who might be thinking of doing a social work placement?
Yes just do it. I think you can potentially get a lot more experience, particularly if you're doing a rural generalist kind of role where there's so much diversity in what you do in a day. If you have confidence and believe in yourself, you can acquire quite a bit of independence and responsibility. I've found the team very supportive as well. They also trust me to take on maybe more than a student would in an urban placement. So I feel like you potentially have more learning opportunities out here and I think you also just get to see things that you don't see in the city. Whether it's having to be a bit more creative when supporting someone because there are service gaps and issues with accessing things. There is also a bit of advocacy involved in that.
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!