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Remote health focus at Katherine Rural Campus

By Patrick Nelson

Dr Pascale Dettwiller … “We have a mandate to educate the health workforce” Dr Pascale Dettwiller … “We have a mandate to educate the health workforce”

Charles Darwin University’s Katherine Rural Campus hosted a multi-disciplinary educational program where drama and story-telling were used to teach important messages about health delivery in remote parts of the Northern Territory.

Flinders NT Katherine Site Director Dr Pascale Dettwiller said story-telling was an important strategy for “conveying meaning” at the recent annual three-day Remote Health Experience.

Dr Dettwiller said attendees included nursing students and pharmacy students from Charles Darwin University, medical students from the Flinders University NT Medical Program, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health practitioner students enrolled in certificate and diploma courses.

“We brought together about 60 students, professionals and practitioners from different disciplines, backgrounds, experiences and knowledge levels to share and learn about how to better approach health and clinical situations in the bush,” Dr Dettwiller said.

“To use a metaphor, it was a bit like having the waters from two streams flowing into a single river, and where they meet was where we learnt from each other and build skills.

“Each discipline was asked to explain what they do in everyday life so everyone else has a clear understanding of what the others do.”

Dr Dettwiller said students were asked to respond to a series of exercises where emphasis was placed on teamwork, communication, decision-making and innovation as much as clinical practice.

“All elements of the program reflected the challenges of the NT remote context, which typically means vast distances, cultural complexities and a lack of access to high-tech equipment. It is one thing to be clinically competent, but we need our health practitioners to be confident to think outside the box when challenged with an emergency in a resource-poor environment.”

Dr Dettwiller said organisers had introduced the “fishbowl exercise” this year for the first time.

“We engaged the services of a local actor to play the role of a patient in an exercise designed to develop skills in observation. The overarching question in this exercise was ‘what do you see?’ which prompted some interesting conversations between students working in multidisciplinary groups.”

Dr Dettwiller said the 2015 Remote Health Experience was part of the broader program to continue building a Territory health workforce that could deliver health services in rural and remote Australia.

“We have a mandate to contribute to the making of the health workforce and particularly to develop a home-grown health workforce who will stay in the Territory.”

The Remote Health Experience is an initiative of Flinders University, Charles Darwin University and the Batchelor Institute of Indigenous Tertiary Education. The program is funded by Flinders University Northern Territory.