20-year commitment to upskilling rural health professionals

  • Emergency specialist Professor Tony Celenza
    Emergency specialist Professor Tony Celenza
  • Professor Tony Celenza at the Rural and Remote Retrieval weekend in Karijini and Rotto Ramble events.
    Professor Tony Celenza at the Rural and Remote Retrieval weekend in Karijini and Rotto Ramble events.
  • Professor Tony Celenza at the Rural and Remote Retrieval weekend in Karijini and Rotto Ramble events.
    Professor Tony Celenza at the Rural and Remote Retrieval weekend in Karijini and Rotto Ramble events.
  • Professor Tony Celenza at the Rural and Remote Retrieval weekend in Karijini and Rotto Ramble events.
    Professor Tony Celenza at the Rural and Remote Retrieval weekend in Karijini and Rotto Ramble events.

Rural Health West – Western Australia’s Rural Workforce Agency – delivers a diverse range of medical education activities and is the leading provider of upskilling for medical professionals working in rural Western Australia.

Emergency specialist Professor Antonio (Tony) Celenza has been a driving force behind the Rural Health West CPD program for 20 years and is the mastermind responsible for some of the more popular courses including Rural Emergency Assessment Clinical Training (REACT), and the annual Rural and Remote Retrieval Weekend in Karijini National Park.

‘Twenty years ago, I was asked to collaborate with what was then known as WACRRM to develop courses for rural GPs. I did not imagine that I would still be heavily involved in their design and delivery two decades later.

‘We have multiple levels of teaching in the CPD program. We tailor the workshops to match the great variation in participant confidence and competence.

‘Sometimes these courses can confirm they are doing good practice. Others might need a bit of a refresher course and, in some circumstances, it is not upskilling, it is skilling – everything is new or they have been out of practice and we are teaching new skills.

‘We do our best to make the CPD program relevant, practical and fun, to ensure that rural health professionals are equipped with the knowledge and skill set to deliver quality care to rural and remote Western Australian communities.’

When asked what he enjoyed most about his involvement in the CPD program, Tony says It is the people he meets and what he learns from their experiences.

‘The social aspect of the conferences and workshops is both enjoyable and educational. Networking with colleagues and rural practitioners and hearing their perspectives is helpful for me, particularly when designing educational events.’

Conversely, Tony says participants tell him that the chance to network is really important for them.

‘There are benefits for delivering our training in both Perth and in the regions. For the Perth-based training, we have delegates travel from the regions and they discuss their perspectives and challenges in a safe environment, which then helps them realise they have similar circumstances to others. Whereas, when the trainers travel, CPD provides an opportunity for participants to upskill in a team setting and build their local network.’

Rural Health West Chair, the Hon Tuck Waldron, says Tony’s involvement in Rural Health West’s professional development program has been instrumental in ensuring rural doctors and emergency department nurses are well prepared for the many and varied patient presentations they are called upon to manage.

‘Many rural doctors and nurses work in small teams and, prior to the emergency telehealth service, were often required to manage critically ill and injured patients without the support and guidance of emergency specialists.’

‘Over the past 20 years, Tony has been working with Rural Health West to develop relevant upskilling to ensure rural health professionals are highly competent and feel confident in stabilising and managing a broad range of patient presentations.

‘The courses and workshops Tony has designed are highly interactive and practical, with participants encouraged to share their own clinical experiences to further tailor training to their specific needs.’

Tony has developed workshops covering critical airway and respiratory management, critical illness, and toxicological, neurological, orthopaedic and cardiovascular emergencies.

He was the mastermind behind a suite of outdoor, multi-event emergency weekends, including the Rural and Remote Retrieval Weekend, which has been hosted at both El Questro and Karijini National Park, and attracts medical professionals from across Australia.

He also developed the Rotto Ramble event, a three-day adventure race across Rottnest Island for junior doctors and medical students, designed to test their emergency knowledge and skills in responding to scenarios such as drownings, shark attacks and impalements.

Tony has received numerous awards for excellence in teaching, including a citation for Outstanding Contribution to Student Learning by the Australian Learning and Teaching Council. In October 2021, Tony was inducted as a Life Member of Rural Health West in recognition of his work to upskill countless rural and aspiring rural doctors.

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