OT student project to benefit health services in Heathcote

An Occupational Therapy student project has found a strong need for more allied health services in Heathcote.

Ella Fitzpatrick, Meisha Dedman and Lucy McCracken-Bell surveyed health professionals and local residents, and liaised with Heathcote Health management, for their final-year project, presented at this week’s annual OT student conference.

“We believe we have completed some very helpful groundwork for them to build on and use for the planning of expanding allied health services within the Heathcote district,” they said.

“Heathcote Health are hoping to be building a new Community Hub and we believe our findings and recommendations will be very beneficial in supporting the plans for this.”

The students have provided Heathcote Health with evidenced-based resources and recommendations for implementing allied health services that acknowledge the barriers and enablers to staff recruitment and retention, while meeting the district’s needs.

As students of Australia’s largest rural health school, all three were interested to learn what would encourage allied health professionals to work in a rural or regional area.

“We all have interest in mental health and health disparities that are commonly faced by those living in rural/remote towns,” they said. But for others, the trio found there was a need to promote professional development and supervision, plus social opportunities for building a career and life in a smaller town.  

“Through the survey findings it was confirmed that Heathcote community members have limited information regarding the services available to them, funding and the referral process and that there is a strong need for increased allied health services in the region, particularly physiotherapy, occupational therapy, podiatry, exercise physiology, optometry, diabetes education, psychology, dietetics and social work.”

Recommendations made to Heathcote Health were: promotion of services, an allied health hub within the Community Hub, expansion of allied health services within the district, offering services via telehealth and meeting the needs of employees through development opportunities, supervision, identifying socials needs and providing social opportunities. A final recommendation was to employee individuals who are passionate about working in rural areas.

“Heathcote Health can now use and adapt these findings and recommendations to enable this expansion.”

All three students said they were now looking forward to starting their careers as occupational therapists, after a rewarding uni experience.

“The Bendigo Masters course has been great and the facilitators have done really well providing the two years of study have been majority online,” Meisha says.

“The learning and placements I have had, have all been really informative and invaluable. Going into 2022 I have plans to work in the NDIS sector with mental health and disability.”

Ella says her varied work placements were invaluable in preparing her for the profession. “Going into 2022 I will be working in a NDIS community paediatric job in Bendigo and am very much looking forward to working as an occupational therapist,” she sys.

Lucy says she is looking forward to working as an occupational therapist in the community, with people of all ages.

Congratulations to all our OT students who presented their final projects to peers, academics and industry this week.

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