CARAH Health LEADS is a program designed to foster and promote leadership skills for emerging health professionals in a rural and remote context. Six health discipline students from across Australia were flown to Alice Springs for a week in early June to undertake activities that would enable us to gain a ‘real world’ and industry perspective on the contemporary issues underpinning health service delivery, inter-cultural communication and Indigenous knowledges, and provide us with opportunities for personal and professional development.

Over the course of the week, we students joined an introductory cultural context workshop run by the Centre for Remote Health, visited Purple House, had a tour of Alice Springs hospital with a brief lecture on retrieval services, visited the Royal Flying Doctor’s hangar, walked up Mt Gillen, attended clinical “speed dates” with professionals in our respective disciplines and attended the Health LEADS workshop run over two days by Dr Elizabeth Shannon from UTAS.

The Health LEADS Australia Framework formed the basis for the leadership theory we learned, and we had the honour of hearing the stories and experiences of several foremost health professionals in Alice Springs, including HESTA Nurse of the Year winner and CEO of Western Desert Dialysis (Purple House), Sarah Brown.

Best bits

The best parts of the trip, for me, were when the opportunities for culture and language barriers to be bridged were greatest. Two such occasions were learning about Arrernte culture during the cultural context workshop and running a health skills workshop for the children at Lytentye Apurte (Santa Teresa) school.

Challenging situations

Although these encounters were fantastic learning tools for us as soon to be health professionals, it also made very real the stark disparity of health services between metro and rural/remote areas in Australia, not to mention the immense challenge of addressing closing the gap in health equality across Australia.

It was difficult to experience first-hand the obvious need for health equality in a rural setting and see the impact this had on individuals we all got to meet and chat with.

What I got from it all

In all, it was not just the incredible opportunities for professional development that emerged during the program, but establishing friendships with likeminded students from all over Australia is a truly inspiring feeling. One great outcome I had from my clinical “speed date” was I secured the opportunity to return to Alice Springs and complete a five week block placement with NT Hearing Services in my final year – something I otherwise would have had to compete for with students from my course and possibly others from interstate.

I cannot speak highly enough of the organisation, planning and preparation that went into this program. The NT PHN staff directly (and those indirectly) involved were some of the loveliest people I have met, and encouraged and supported us from the minute we arrived to get the most out of the program.

Other programs/initiatives run by NT PHN for students

The NT PHN also runs other programs for students with a rural focus, such as the NT Rural High School Visit (RHSV) Program and Go Rural.

I highly encourage anyone interested in rural/remote practice to apply for this program! I cannot stress enough the sheer advantage the experience will give you in not only the rest of your studies, but applying for positions once you’ve finished your degree.

Sally Wallz, Master of Audiology (first year)