The Australian Society of Medical Imaging and Radiation Therapy (ASMIRT) is the peak body representing medical radiation practitioners (diagnostic radiographers, radiation therapists and nuclear medicine scientists) in Australia. Our aims are to promote, encourage, cultivate and maintain the highest principles of practice and proficiency of medical radiation science, always mindful that the welfare of the patient should be at the centre of everything we do.
The ASMIRT rural clinical placement scheme has been operational for fifteen years, designed to support and promote rural health initiatives. The scheme is intended to assist medical radiation students with travel and accommodation costs associated with a rural clinical placement. With the cost of living quite significant and students living away from home, or relocating states to attend university courses, the cost of education is becoming prohibitive. Financial and family commitments contribute to the struggle.
By all accounts, this program has received a great deal of interest and support from the universities, as well as students and the communities they attend for placement. It has enabled contribution and continued support to minimise financial angst.
The following account is indicative of the experiences of our successful recipients, and we are heartened to see that the ASMIRT program has provided some level of growth and development.
The recent clinical placement that I attended completely exceeded my expectations. The small and approachable team encouraged growth and development of interprofessional skills within the multidisciplinary healthcare team, making me feel as though I was a valuable team member and not just another student.
This country experience was enriching and fulfilling, enabling continuity of care for patients, as well as enjoying the trust, respect and reliance of other interprofessional groups. It is only now that I have been able to truly grasp and understand the significance of our profession within rural communities.
I have always taken for granted the ability to access health care from my local metropolitan hospital or clinic. It did not occur to me that patients had to travel significant distances just for basic imaging or treatment and care. Suddenly it dawned on me the difficulties experienced by patients accessing rural health care. There was a wait list for procedures, supplies required were affected by distance and often delays resulting from courier difficulties, and floods blocking off roads would severely affect our patients for the day.
Despite these hardships, patients were amazing in their gratitude and they loved showing their appreciation. Every patient was so thankful for our time and our patience, creating an enjoyable placement. Developing rapport and connection with patients was so important to becoming a relatable, trustworthy professional.
What made the rural experience more incredible was the willingness of the professional team to give students responsibility to become a significant part of the team. My biggest learning was how to adapt and overcome daily challenges while maintaining appropriate health care to vulnerable patients. Learning different tips and tricks from my supervisors, and witnessing how they utilised the resources available to them, demonstrated the key skills of innovation and ingenuity.
Taking part in a rural clinical placement offers multiple opportunities to think on your feet, be given more responsibility, and allows you to experience greater continuity of care with the patient. While there are many challenges associated with a rural placement – mostly personal – having had the opportunity to be ‘tested’ on this journey has made me understand the value of my profession, how it is perceived by the community, and how important it is to be an ambassador for access to rural medicine that is sustainable and affordable.