Physiotherapists are an important component of the rural healthcare system, providing care and treatment to people of all ages. For many, work is just a small part of how physiotherapists engage in their communities. Three physiotherapists share stories of their time working in regional and rural communities, demonstrating how diverse the profession is and the depth of skills shown by rural physiotherapists in addressing patient need.
Hailing from Hillston, New South Wales, Ellen is a fourth-generation farmer who returned to the farming lifestyle after graduating in 1990 and marrying a farmer. With three sons, Ellen commenced her own physiotherapy practice in 1997 that provided flexibility and enabled her to maintain her clinical skills when her children were young. Not afraid to roll up her sleeves, community involvement through sports, volunteering, health promotion and advocacy work were, and continue to be, everyday practice.
‘Living and working in the outback is what you make of it. Rich with beauty, opportunities and the good things in life. It is about the people, and it is about overcoming challenge after challenge – that is what builds resilience, innovation and patience.’
The need and use of the health system as a consumer, the mother of a child with cancer and a worker with insight into health systems, has added to Ellen’s perspective. Driven by a connection to the land, and a love and understanding of the people who live on it, Ellen strives to make a difference in rural health, one small step at a time.
Peter grew up in Melbourne but, on graduation from Lincoln Institute of Health Sciences, chose to seek employment in country Victoria. During his 24 years of clinical practice, Peter says he has been able to reflect on the opportunities a small country hospital and a warm country community can offer a physiotherapist from Melbourne.
‘I congratulate rural and regional physiotherapists, who deliver such amazing service to the regions they love.’
As a young graduate, like many rural physiotherapists Peter worked across a broad range of areas. He even delivered antenatal classes as a middle-aged man with five children. He acknowledges extensive opportunities working across a wide range of roles has made him a more rounded and skilled physiotherapist.
Online education provided the ability to complete a master’s degree in Musculoskeletal Physiotherapy and Sports and Exercise Physiotherapy. This education eventually led to travelling internationally with Australian Para-athletics and Para-cycling over five years. Eventually, an advanced practice role in Ballarat saw Peter coming back to western Victoria, delivering Advanced Practice Orthopaedic Spinal Assessment services to rural hospitals. He has since qualified as a Specialist Musculoskeletal Physiotherapist.
Nick has lived and worked in Darwin since 2004 and, during this time, he has built successful private practices with a focus on fair and equitable access to physiotherapy services for every person.
In the Northern Territory (NT), Nick has been involved in setting up physiotherapy services to remote mines, aged care services, hospitals and sports organisations. More recently, he has been working on the delivery of professional development opportunities to remote areas via teleconferencing infrastructure.
Nick has worked extensively in the sporting community and is currently lead physiotherapist with the AFL NT Thunder Development program mentoring the next generation of sports physiotherapists. A passion for hockey has seen Nick involved in this sport since 2006 and, during the past 15 years, he has travelled throughout Australia and internationally with NT squads, Junior Australian Men’s and Women’s teams and as part of the Australian Men’s National Program.