Picture for illustration purposes.

Sheila is an Occupational Therapist working in the area of community care in the town of Bundaberg. She loves working in rural Australia. In her story she acknowledges the benefits from her work and notes the satisfaction she gets from working collaboratively with her clients. While not dwelling on them, Sheila indicates some of the challenges experienced. These include: lack of proper equipment, difficulty in accessing appropriate equipment in the required timeframe, and inadequate government or personal funding to cover the costs of care.

Sheila’s story:

A typical day for me can include so many things. It could be discussing and measuring for home modifications such as grab rails or ramps so an individual can stay safely in their home; measuring for and trialling equipment such as wheelchairs or wheeled walkers to increase an individual’s independence and access to the wider community or advocating for a client to access increased necessary services through NDIS or My Aged Care.

While the benefits consistently outweigh the barriers, like any job there will always be challenges. For me personally, it becomes very difficult when a client is clearly in need of equipment or services but does not have enough government or personal funding to cover the costs. I strive to overcome this by providing the best service I can under the funding available and being creative in the interventions I provide to be as cost effective as possible while continuously advocating for the client for additional funding or services in the background.

Another challenge when working in a regional or rural setting is the variety of equipment available in a reasonable time frame. In a small region when there are only a hand full of suppliers locally it can be difficult accessing a variety of equipment that a client could benefit from. I am very fortunate in the area that I work as I have a great network of suppliers that are willing to source equipment from elsewhere for me to trial with clients, however, this is always a time consuming process as the equipment often needs to be sent from national or international locations.

Despite these challenges, I consider myself very fortunate that I can work every day in this role as I get to see such a variety of cases and hear amazing life stories from my clients. I always see my role as working in collaboration with a client to find a solution rather than working for a client which places the responsibility and choice back to them so they are always very involved in all the processes. This is why I #loverural.

Sheila’s story highlights some of the benefits of working in rural and remote Australia. It also reinforces concerns around funding. Allied health professionals require government support – in particular adequate funding – in their efforts to mitigate the challenges faced in providing care in rural and remote areas. The collaborative and empowering working relationship between Sheila and her clients ensures that clients are effectively engaged in the health care process. This has the potential to improve health outcomes for consumers in rural and remote areas.

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