Helen Tran (R) with an Occupational Therapy student also on placement
By Ashleigh McMillan
As a young city dweller, Helen Tran didn’t know what to expect from a six-week rural placement in Whyalla that began on 25 July. She’s pleased she jumped into the unknown.
Her placement was supported by the South Australian Government’s Department of Rural Health, which has funded more than 80 allied health placements for Flinders University, The University of South Australia and Adelaide University students in 2016.
Helen is a student at Flinders University and was attracted to the placement because it offered hands-on experience with a range of patients in an independent practice.
‘The thing about rural placements is that you see a greater variety of conditions than you would see in the city, so it was a really great opportunity to see some rarer and more unusual presentations,’ she said.
‘On my first day, I had someone with pseudomonas keratitis, which was really cool. The patient came in with a really red eye, so it was interesting to see the real-life presentation of the condition and how my [supervising] optometrist was managing it with therapeutics. Some cases throughout my time there were unusual but by liaising with my optometrist, we were able to work it out together,’ she said.
After testing more than 80 patients on the placement, Helen thinks her natural flow in conducting a full examination has improved. ‘In the university clinic you kind of get bits and pieces, but going on placement helps you communicate better with patients; it gives you a better idea of how to actually conduct the full examination.
‘There are also small things that you pick up when you’re doing testing, such as positioning of your hands or positioning of the patient, the small prompts to help the patient understand better,’ she said.
Having never experienced rural life, Helen didn’t know what to expect. She found she enjoyed the feeling of camaraderie with her fellow allied health students who were also staying on the UniSA residential campus.
‘We all came home each day after placement and chatted, had dinner together and talked about our days. On the weekend we would explore Whyalla together,’ she said.
‘Before my experience in Whyalla, I had been a bit scared of rural life because it’s so different from everything that I knew. Going there was a really big learning experience and I felt like I became so much more independent there and I learned so much from my placement.
‘I’d recommend going rural to all optometry students,’ Helen said.