Changing models for undergraduate student placements: Interprofessional education through Service Learning

Ms Kelly Thurlow1, Mrs Jane  Ferns2, Mrs  Alexander  Little3, Dr  Leanne  Brown3

1University Of Newcastle Department Of Rural Health , Taree, Australia, 2University Of Newcastle Department of Rural Health , Taree, Australia , 3Univesity Of Newcastle Department Of Rural Health , Tamworth , Australia


The University of Newcastle Department of Rural Health (UONDRH) developed a program of opportunities in interprofessional education (IPE). The Educating for Collaborative Healthcare Opportunities (ECHO) program is based on a framework of interprofessional education competency, which aims to foster practitioner readiness through implementing a range of IPE strategies across a variety of sites, settings and professions. Partnerships between health and education enable the generation of real-world experiences that contribute to student learning across professions.
The UONDRH established a collaboration with a rural residential aged care facility (RACF) to develop interprofessional, service-learning based, ECHO opportunities for undergraduate allied health students. Mobility and falls risk were opportunities for students to contribute to resident wellbeing, as previously residents only received input from allied health professionals for pain management.
Nine students from the disciplines of physiotherapy, pharmacy and occupational therapy participated in a seven-week rotational placement at the RACF. Residents with complex medical conditions were identified for participation by RACF staff.
Each week, students undertook a client interview and documentation review focusing on exploration of the resident’s comprehensive medical history and identification of IPE patient-centred care goals. A case conference was then conducted with facilitation by an Interprofessional Learning Academic. Students were required to identify strategies to meet identified patient-centred care goals, with consideration given to how each profession can contribute to resident needs and prioritisation of discipline specific input.
Positive outcomes demonstrated overall student satisfaction, increased awareness of other professions’ roles and appreciation for working as part of a team in real-world experiences.


Kelly Thurlow graduated from the University of Sydney in 1996 with a Bachelor of Health Science (Physiotherapy). Kelly has been an advocate for Rural and Remote health for many years working in rural facilities in Far North Queensland and providing mentoring for new graduates in remote locations such as Thursday Island. She has additionally worked on large state-wide projects looking at workforce such as the HP redesign for Queensland Health as the rural and remote representative, as well as previously being on the APA Rural issues Committee
For the past 9 years Kelly has worked as a lecturer with the University Of Newcastle Department Of Rural Health located in Taree NSW. Part of her role involves clinical supervision for undergraduate students undertaking placement in the Emergency Department at Manning Rural Referral Hospital, providing over 65 student teaching weeks per year.
Her interests remain around advocacy for rural and remote health and the advanced practice models of workforce re design. She is keen to see the development and application of advanced scope roles across the physiotherapy workforce and development of formalised and Australia wide training pathways.