Date: November 2022
University: University of Queensland
Field of Study: Speech Pathology
Having never explored out west before, Lachie’s keen sense of adventure was the reason he decided to say ‘yes’ to a rural speech pathology placement in the outback town of Charleville. And he is so glad he did because he has loved every minute of it.
As a third-year speech pathology student at the University of Queensland living in Ipswich, an eight week rural placement meant he could dive deep into some incredible experiences, both professionally and personally.
Lachie said the biggest reason he wanted to go rural was to get as broad as an experience as possible.
“I wanted to see as much as I could within the spectrum of speech pathology work,” Lachie said.
“From a career perspective, I wanted a placement that could really touch on every single different aspect.
“But also from a personal perspective, I’ve never been out west. I’ve lived in Australia my whole life but I’ve never really seen this side to it. So I was very curious to see what life is like out here, what you can do and what the people are like. I wanted to take the opportunity to have a really cool life experience.”
A BROAD PROFESSIONAL EXPERIENCE
Lachie said his rural placement at the Charleville Hospital has given him a chance to put his education and skills to use across many areas and to find which niche interests him the most.
“I’ve got to do pretty much everything you can imagine to do with speech. The majority of our case load has been paediatric outpatients in the hospital, working on literacy and speech. Then we will go up to the wards to see inpatients who come in for swallow reviews or communication assessments.
“We just got back this morning from a home visit, for a patient who needed a swallow review to see if they were swallowing and feeding safely.
“And then every Tuesday we do outreach. We’ve been to Quilpie, Augathella, and Cunnamulla. When we do outreach, we will travel there and be there for the day at the hospital, maybe some home visits, and you can just see anything that walks through the door. We might work with a few returning patients or review patients under the National Preventive Health Strategy or at the aged care homes.”
THE ADVENTURE OF A LIFETIME
For his first block placement, Lachie was a little apprehensive about travelling eight hours drive away from his home, but he said he was pleasantly surprised by how much there is to do.
“One thing that surprised me a lot is that you’re out kind of in the middle of nowhere, and it’s very far from Brisbane, but there has not been a single weekend where it hasn’t been busy. There has been so much to do if you put in the effort,” Lachie said.
“One weekend we did a camping trip. We left Friday, went out to Quilpie, camped at the lake, watched the sunset there which was just unreal. The countryside is so isolated, and just so beautiful.
“We got up first thing and drove on to Eromanga which was a further two hours out. And that was really cool to see because it’s a tiny little country town and it is the furthest town in Australia from the sea. We went to the pub for lunch and saw the dinosaur museum.
“We also did a hike at Quilpie to a place called Baldy Top. We watched the sunrise from there. it was such a good view of the outback which was really special to see. They have the old Aboriginal carvings and paintings at the top of the mountain.”
LEARNING FROM INDIGENOUS CULTURES
Lachie said he has also enjoyed learning about Indigenous cultures and working with a broad case load of people from all different backgrounds.
“It’s good to put our cultural capability training into practice but also to see it in person. It’s the first time going from learning about it to actually working with these populations. It’s been very rewarding and educational,” Lachie said.
CEMENTING A LOVE FOR SPEECH PATHOLOGY
Lachie said he always knew he wanted to work in allied health and speech pathology gave him the chance to improve health outcomes for many different people.
“I wanted to have a job where you actually, as cliché as it is, help people. You can make a difference,” Lachie said.
“There are some times when you are working with a kid doing literacy, you might be doing games like hopscotch and jumping on different sounds, and it just doesn’t feel like a job.
“It’s those sort of times that are really special because yes, it’s work but it’s also just such a fun job.
“I also wanted to pick a profession that was very broad. So with speech pathology, it’s almost split into two. You have kids you work on speech and literacy with. And then you have older adults who you work on completely different things with like post-stroke communication. They may have had a fall and have a dysphagia and they can’t swallow safely. So you might work with them to modify their diet. It makes your day-to-day work life, especially as a rural generalist, really interesting because you never see the same thing twice.”
LEARNING FROM THE BEST
Lachie said he has been lucky to work with a clinical educator who has perfected the balance of allowing him freedom while providing important guidance.
“100%, my educator has been awesome. She approaches it in a really relaxed manner. And because she is the sole generalist, she’s so knowledgeable in all the different avenues of speech pathology. It’s been great to learn from her,” Lachie said.
A rural placement has also meant that Lachie has been given the chance to work closely with other health professionals to improve his interprofessional practice.
“On my first day, we did outreach, we went to Quilpie with the physiotherapist. We also share a workspace with the occupational therapists and dietitians so we are always chatting to them,” Lachie said.
“We go down to the healthy ageing clinic and work with the dietitian for diet modifications. That was during Malnutrition Week so she had the blender bike out where the blender is powered by the bike. We filled it up with fruits and milks and fortified fluids, then the patients would hop on and pedal and blend up a smoothie. That high protein, high energy smoothie to help fight malnutrition that comes with older age. The dietitian would talk to the group about the nutritional side and we would talk to them about swallowing and when and if you need thicker fluids.”
A HOME AWAY FROM HOME
Lachie said the accommodation has been a highlight considering he has an en suite and a walk-in closet, better than his own set up at home.
“The entire accommodation has been provided and free from SQRH. And it’s been really good. I couldn’t fault it. I’m currently staying with two nursing students and a psychologist. You have your own area, spacious and it is well equipped in terms of appliances, and pretty much everything you would need while here,” Lachie said.
“Given my placement is a little bit longer, there have been a few people come and go at the house. It’s pretty transient. But everyone has been so cool, easy to get along with. And it just fits in with the community out here, everyone just gets along with everyone.”
A BRIGHT FUTURE AFTER GRADUATION
Lachie isn’t sure what life looks like for him after graduates in a year’s time but he is keen to keep following his sense of adventure and enthusiasm for helping people.
“From this placement I have been exposed to all the aspects of speech pathology. The part that has interested me the most has been that dysphasia, swallowing, acute care side. I definitely want to explore that more hopefully on future placements. But I’ve also enjoyed the paediatric work so much. I could also see myself working there. I’m not too sure which part I enjoy the most, but this placement made me realise I enjoy all the work no matter what,” Lachie said.
“This placement has definitely made me consider going rural after graduation. It comes with its difficulties in terms of being away from family and being isolated. But it’s also made me realise how easy it is to stay in touch. You’re so connected nowadays and the time goes by quick. It really doesn’t feel like you’re that far out.
“It also made me realise how practical it is in terms of getting home. So many people will go home for a weekend. It’s opened my eyes to how easy it can be, so it’s definitely something I would consider more now following this placement.”
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!