Transitioning from student to professional, city to rural: All in one effortless motion…

By Renae Strugnell

Renae is an Early Intervention Occupational Therapist working in Port Pirie, South Australia. In the story below Renae talks about how she came to be working in rural practice.

Photograph of Renae

In my fourth year of an Occupational Therapy Course at the University of South Australia I was given the chance to undertake a rural placement in Port Pirie, South Australia.

So here I was heading to Port Pirie with five other OT Students for a three month adventure that truly set the pathway for unforgettable memories, experiences, opportunities and friendships that grew stronger than we had ever imagined.

The knowledge and skills that we developed working in Port Pirie have carried on till this very day as a clinician. I learnt the importance of including communities in practice and service delivery. To have an understanding of the rural living and social determinants that impact on health. My confidence to communicate and develop working partnerships effectively was increased, as was my capacity to build professional networks. All of these have greatly benefited my clinical work since.

During the placement there were some challenges. The biggest was dealing with the realities of working within an organisation, the ‘red tape’ and time pressure and stress management. We all maintained work / life balance by becoming involved in the community through sport, the gym, and other social events which extended our friendships with locals and many other students.

So here I am April 2009…having officially graduated, I am now working on a 12 month contract as an Early Intervention Occupational Therapist in Port Pirie. I am applying my knowledge of Primary Health Care principles and clinical expertise in the area of Paediatrics.

I continue to embrace the learning journey, expanding my knowledge on Paediatric OT, PHC practice, working in a multi disciplinary environment, time and stress management, and balancing work and life.

As a new graduate the transition from student to clinician has been smooth not only due to the support of PPRHS in training and development, clinical and administrative supervision, mentoring opportunities and accommodation, but through the prior networks and experience I had gained as a student.

Of course there are ups and downs, moving away from friends/family to the ‘unknown’, anxieties of my clinical judgement and working with complex clients and communities. However, embracing the challenge, learning from mistakes, taking on advice and direction from colleagues, meeting new friends and living life - playing sport, camping, dinners, quiz nights and road trips has made this transition truly effortless.