“All members of the team are an asset.” and “Use the skills of those around you.” are just two of the reflections of students who experienced a rural interdisciplinary simulation training event in Tamworth, New South Wales.
In October 2018, students from the Nursing, Medicine and Paramedicine programs at Western Sydney University and the University of Newcastle came together in Tamworth, New South Wales for the simulation training event. The Rural Interprofessional Learning (RIPL) Tamworth Rural Experience (T-REX) was developed as a joint effort between Western Sydney University’s Bathurst and Lismore Rural Clinical Schools and the University of Newcastle Department of Rural Health. T-REX also brought together a range of clinicians including nurses, general practitioners, paramedics, an oncologist and a mental health specialist to give the students a truly unique learning experience.
Over the course of the weekend, 34 students participated in four simulation events developed by a team of experienced rural clinicians to address a range of complex situations that students would likely encounter in their future careers within a rural setting. The simulations included a range of complexities, both social and logistical, that come with managing a high-acuity trauma, mental health, stroke and terminal illness in the rural context. During each simulation students were challenged to address the presenting medical issues, as well as to manage the social and geographical complexities that they would likely encounter in a real-life setting. These complexities required students to work in an interdisciplinary team, testing their interprofessional communication and collaboration skills, to ensure they provided the best patient outcomes for each unique situation.
A debrief was conducted after each simulation event. Through the debriefing, students were able to reflect on the experience and consider how they could manage future events in their careers in an interdisciplinary practice environment. The process of working in an interdisciplinary way highlighted the interdependence among rural practitioners and was a new experience for students who were used to working and learning in more discipline-specific formats.
The students also visited the WESTPAC Rescue Helicopter Base at Tamworth airport where they had a guided tour of the base and helicopter, watched a helicopter land following a call-out, and engaged in discussions with a rurally-based retrieval registrar, paramedic and pilot. Students were able to ask questions about living and working in a rural environment as well as educational and career pathways. This was followed by a debrief dinner and trivia competition.
T-REX was an excellent learning experience for the event facilitators as well. Through the experience the facilitators identified areas of health education that could be better addressed within the current curriculum. Educators are now working on ways to better prepare students for such situations once they transition into practice.
The T-REX RIPL was a unique learning experience for students interested in practicing in rural and remote environments. They will carry the understanding and respect for other health disciplines they have gained into their future practice. Events like these rely on the generosity of staff, students and other volunteers pitching in. We are grateful for all of our rural community members who helped make it happen and we hope to run a similar day again in the future.
The authors acknowledge and thank the wider TREX team - Jane Thompson, Buck Reed, Kam Wong, Robyn Vines, Karen Beattie, Tim McCrossin, Ross Wilson, Jenny May, Ian Woodley and Amy Scott.