Centre for Remote Health

John Wakerman Frances Blenkinsop and Jessie AndersonFlinders NT and the Centre for Remote Health hosted an event in Alice Springs on 5th December to celebrate the clinical supervisors who support health students on placement throughout Central Australia.

This was also a perfect opportunity to acknowledge the Central Australian winners of the Flinders NT Supervisor Awards, which were presented by Professor John Wakerman, Associate Dean, Flinders NT. These awards recognise and celebrate health professionals in the Northern Territory who selflessly dedicate their precious time to prepare our future workforce.

Danny TsaiCongratulations to Dr Danny Tsai who is the first Central Australian based pharmacist to be awarded a fellowship by the Society of Hospital Pharmacists of Australia (SHPA).  About 75% of all hospital pharmacists in Australia are SHPA members with approximately only 10 fellowships being awarded each year.

Currently working as the Antimicrobial Stewardship pharmacist at the Alice Springs Hospital, Danny is also the Rural Pharmacy Liaison Officer (RPLO) at the Centre for Remote Health. His RPLO position focuses on coordinating student placements, promoting rural pharmacy practice and providing support to local pharmacists to access education.

Annie FarthingAAG Conference, Allied Health Academic at the Centre for Remote Health and Vice President of the Australian Association of Gerontology (AAG), attended the AAG annual conference in Melbourne in November. The conference offered a great opportunity to shed light on its theme ‘Advancing not Retiring’ and presented research, practice and education about ‘active players, a fair future’.

“As we are starting to live longer we have more time to contribute to society, and every sector of society can have a role in making ageing a time of strong engagement”, said AAG President, Associate Professor Christine Stirling.

Professor Sir Michael Marmot was the International Gary Andrew Fellow and gave the conference a focus on the challenges of a fair future for everyone.

Pre-conference workshops included Addressing aged care workforce issues in rural and remote Australia, and Exploring appropriate aged care needs assessment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people hosted by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Advisory Group.

Reports on both these workshops will be released in the New Year.

John WrightJohn Wright, Nursing Education Specialist at the Tennant Creek Hospital, has won the Innovative Supervisor Award in Nursing at the inaugural Flinders NT Supervisor Awards that were held on 22 November in Darwin.

John supports over twenty nursing students a year,  often with up to four students at a time on placement at Tennant Creek Hospital. He is a strong supporter of the Rural Health Multidisciplinary Training (RHMT) Program and was one of the first in the Northern Territory to embrace opportunities to expand placement activity.

John has worked in regional and remote areas throughout his career, with the past thirteen years in the NT. He has a clear love of education and embraces innovation in clinical learning by striving to provide the most exciting opportunities for students.

When a student attends a placement, he coordinates with other health areas to allow a variety of experiences. With opportunities to experience the Emergency Department, Hospital Ward, GP Practice, Primary Health Care, Midwifery Group practice, St Johns Ambulance and Renal Dialysis Unit, he has created innovative placement experiences that provide students with the opportunity to identify areas of nursing they are interested in and to appreciate the full range of options available to nurses in the NT.

Georgie Oakman at the Laramba airstrip north-west of Alice Springs, during her medical placement in Central AustraliaGeorgie Oakman, a final year medical student from the University of Melbourne recently spent four weeks on clinical placement in the ophthalmology department at the Alice Springs Hospital (ASH), supported by Flinders NT.

Georgie saw an incredible variety of ocular pathologies, including advanced diabetic retinopathy (sadly in relatively young patients), acute glaucoma, foreign bodies, orbital fractures, anterior uveitis, endophthalmitis and retinal detachments.

“Before starting”, she says, “I could barely turn on a slit lamp and thought I was doing well if I could glimpse a blood vessel with the ophthalmoscope (let alone find the optic disc). However, spending a morning in the ASH outpatient eye clinic was like reading the contents page of the Oxford Handbook of Ophthalmology”.

“Many patients had conditions that I’m unlikely to see outside of the Northern Territory, such as blindness secondary to recurrent trachoma infections or irritant keratitis caused by the bodily fluids of a local brown marmorated stink bug”, said Georgie.

Georgie’s placement gave her an insight into some of the challenges associated with access to healthcare in rural and remote Australia. She also had the unique opportunity to attend an outreach clinic in a remote Indigenous community. This involved loading all of the eye clinic equipment onto a light aircraft and flying out to Laramba, a community of approximately 250 people located north-west of Alice Springs.

“Despite an outback dust storm and Laramba airport’s very short runway, this experience was one of the highlights of my time in Central Australia”, says Georgie.

An additional benefit of undertaking a placement in Alice Springs is the beauty of the surrounding region and Georgie was lucky enough to spend her weekends exploring the West MacDonnell Ranges, Uluru, King’s Canyon and Palm Valley. She says, “One Sunday, I braved the heat to hike a section of the iconic Larapinta Trail.

“I also stayed in the Flinders University accommodation which was a great way to meet other visiting students from a variety of health disciplines.

“My month in Central Australia was an excellent capstone experience for my medical degree. It taught me an enormous amount about ophthalmology, but also about public health, Australian history and Indigenous culture. I’m sure this knowledge will be invaluable as I start my medical career as an intern next year. I’m very grateful to all the staff in the eye department at ASH for creating such a welcoming environment for students. I hope I’ll be back in the Red Centre at some point in my future medical career!”

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