CSU students complete innovative new placement program at Lake Cargelligo ELC

by Freya Lucas

October 28, 2020

Four health students from Charles Sturt University (CSU) have spent more than one month working on a project they tailor made to meet the needs of a project children attending Lake Cargelligo Early Learning Centre (ELC), located in rural New South Wales. 

 

The students, from the occupational therapy and physiotherapy programs, were the first to take part in the ‘non-traditional placement’ program, which saw them work with Lake Cargelligo staff, children and parents to develop and implement health programs for the preschoolers.

 

The program, created by Charles Sturt’s School of Community Health and Three Rivers University Department of Rural Health (Three Rivers UDRH), required the students to work in pairs and apply skills and knowledge they have learned from their course to create a project to benefit children attending Lake Cargelligo.

 

Brett Smith, a Lecturer in Rural Health at Charles Sturt and Three Rivers UDRH said the program was a unique experience for students because they delivered their project and services to an entire organisation, rather than delivering therapy or intervention directly for a client, which is the traditional placement format.

 

“These placements offer our health students the opportunity to complete a placement in a non-clinical environment and within a rural community,” Mr Smith said.

 

Third-year occupational therapy students Chelsea Williams and Emily Schembri from Albury-Wodonga were the first to complete the program, completing their seven-week placement at Lake Cargelligo during July and August this year.

 

The pair developed a program, under the supervision of occupational therapist Brooke Maslin, that was designed to teach preschool educators, primary school teachers and parents several strategies to cater for the children’s different sensory needs and help them to develop the functional skills needed before transitioning to kindergarten.

 

Ms Schembri, who is originally from Bathurst, said she learned a lot during her placement and enjoyed the opportunity to gain hands-on experience.

 

“At the start of the placement, I walked into the centre not knowing a lot about sensory processing or a preschool setting and had never worked in a rural setting,” she said.

 

“But since completing the placement, my knowledge regarding sensory processing and paediatrics has significantly increased.” 

 

The pair were able to trial a number of different sensory interventions and the children worked responded well to the occupational therapy interventions that were used.

 

Ms Williams said she felt “incredibly lucky” to complete a placement program so close to home, and one which tapped into her passion for rural health. 

 

“I was overwhelmed by the support we received from the entire Lake Cargelligo community, and their eagerness to learn from us and implement some of our strategies into their children’s daily routine, which made the placement so rewarding.”

 

Due to the success of the first two student placements, Three Rivers UDRH is continuing to support student clinical placements in Lake Cargelligo and exploring opportunities for future placements with other organisations that have expressed interest in hosting health students within their service.

 

The development of this program was made possible with funding from the Australian Government’s Rural Health Multidisciplinary Training Program.

 

For more information about Charles Sturt University, please see here

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