Internships, Observations and Opportunities at Central Mallee Health

BY JACK SAUNDERS
5th Year Osteopathy Student & Graduate – Victoria University, 2020

Completing my studies in 2020 has presented many unexpected challenges, especially when it has come to gaining practical clinical experience in the midst of a global pandemic. But where a challenge arises, so does opportunities for growth and exposure to new experiences.

When Covid-19 ramped up in the beginning of 2020, I was lucky enough to be able to move back to Sunraysia and live with my family. The quick transition from practical to online learning made me increasingly aware of my need for valuable clinical experience, particularly as the year progressed and my tertiary training was coming to an end.

Having retreated to my hometown of Mildura earlier in 2020, I searched for potential opportunities to garner some experience in the Mallee region, and was immediately drawn to Dr. Louise Bibby (Advanced Sports Osteopath) and the team at Central Mallee Osteopathy (CMO). Generously, they allowed me to become part of the team and join in on the experience at their Swan Hill Clinic and over Osteopathy Outreach locations.

My very first experience was as part of CMO’s Outreach Program in Manangatang, where I joined Dr. Lou on a busy and rewarding day. The early morning ninety-minute drive from Mildura through this picturesque part of the country was a relaxing start to what would be an eventful first outing, a busy day!

Dr. Lou works with the local communities, and on this occasion, had organised to set up her mobile osteo clinic room in a multipurpose building that was formerly a bank amongst other uses. This space has been well utilised by other groups, visiting health professionals and a hairdresser, enabling access to these important services in remote communities.

Over the course of the morning I was able to meet several members of the tight-nit community. What became immediately apparent to me was the general sense of appreciation for having access to primary healthcare close to home! This is understandable considering the significant commute patients would usually expect to travel to Swan Hill, Bendigo, or Mildura for comparative or further care.

Dr. Lou ensured we would make the most of our Manangatang visit, organising an athletic development training session with some local, talented young athletes from the area during our ‘lunch break’. It seems like rural communities are always brimming with talented youngsters who are eager to develop their craft and take every opportunity to do so!

We drove down to the local tennis courts at the racecourse to meet the kids, and Lou enthusiastically shared her expertise during the running session (in which I learned as much anyone else). Having grown up competing in high level sport in a rural setting, I understand the value such an opportunity affords kids who want to improve.

After a quick breather and a drink, it was back to the multipurpose, former bank/hair salon/osteopathy clinic for an afternoon of helping more patients. The day flew by and before we knew it, the sun was beginning to set over the wheat fields around Manangatang

“The commute gave me lots of time to reflect on my day’s experience, and I found myself appreciating the strong sense of community and character that epitomises small rural towns such as Manangatang.”

The drive home was just as picturesque as my drive-in, and I was sure to capture the moment for social media. Working with enthusiastic young athletes (an area which I’m keen to further develop) was immensely rewarding. I began looking forward to to tagging along with Dr. Lou on further outreach days to more Mallee communities.

Over the following weeks, I was also lucky enough to visit the wonderful communities of Wycheproof, Robinvale, and Birchip. The strong sense of community was obvious at every stop. The positive impact the outreach program has on these communities is immediately apparent and must be rewarding for the entire CMO team!

A personal highlight of mine was being invited to run a basketball training session as part of a development program in Robinvale after a day of Outreach. Having been unable to compete or train all year, the young athletes were buoyant with energy, and I relished being back on the court once again myself.

This is just one example of the positive and fulfilling interactions rural healthcare providers can enjoy with rural communities. It is a point of difference when compared to working in the larger city centres, and in my opinion, one of the greatest draw-cards of practicing rurally.

Whilst gaining clinical experience was a big motivator for joining osteopaths Louise, Lachlan, and Jake on outreach across the Mallee, I gained much more than just that. A rural osteopathic internship can, in this case, driven by the unusual circumstances of 2020, provide a unique perspective to primary healthcare that is not explored in the city centres where tertiary training occurs. Plus, you get to meet great people who are passionate about their communities, that not only care about their profession and their communities but about developing the next generation of health-care providers! I encourage any student who is afforded such a similar opportunity to take full advantage of it.

To inquire about student and locum rural placement opportunities at CMO:
Please email: cmo.osteo@gmail.com

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