Over the next two weeks, 32 tertiary health students (four teams of eight tertiary students) will travel the country to promote health careers to more than 2,000 rural school students as part of the concerted effort of the New Zealand Rural General Practice Network (Network) to develop a robust future health workforce.
In groups, tertiary students will visit rural schools in Canterbury, Southland & Otago, Waikato and Northland to share their knowledge and experience in the study of health and inspire students to pursue careers in health .
In this first round of school visits for the year, students will visit 38 schools, including several schools we have never visited before, particularly in areas with large populations of Maori students.
Around 300 students in grades 9-13 will also be visited at Northland schools, including two Kura Kaupapa Māori, by senior students from the Grassroots Rural Health Club during their noho marae.
During the tours, students will lead interactive health careers workshops providing students with hands-on experience with medical equipment with the goal of inspiring them to study health when they leave school.
Students will share information about the range of health disciplines they study, which this year includes medicine, nursing, dentistry, audiology, psychology and physiotherapy.
Through stories and advice, students will not only reveal opportunities in health, but also showcase health as a positive and viable career path for rural youth no matter where they live.
Our hope is that after the Rural Health Careers sessions, students will feel equipped to make informed decisions about future health careers.
Visits to rural schools are a renowned activity of the Promotion of Rural Health Careers Program, run by the Network in partnership with Students of Rural Health Aotearoa (SoRHA) and funded by the Ministry of Health.
This year, 150 college students applied to participate in the rural school tours which provide them with a valuable opportunity to return to their own schools and feel empowered by sharing their experiences.
During these trips, they will also visit several local health providers to meet health professionals and learn about the reality of rural community health.
These experiences help college students connect with rural communities where they might consider working upon graduation.
This program is an integral part of the network’s efforts to address the chronic health workforce shortages across New Zealand, which are sorely felt in rural areas.
Through the NZLocums & NZMedJobs team, the network recruits international doctors and nurse practitioners, for short and long-term placements, who help provide immediate support to understaffed rural communities.
However, the Network recognizes that the long-term solution to this crisis requires us to train more doctors here in New Zealand and prepare them to work in rural settings where they are most needed.
Through the Rural Health Careers Program, the network’s goal is to ensure that we will have an enthusiastic, resilient and strong rural health workforce in the future.
This year, six more rural school visits are planned for August and November with 80 possible schools to visit during this period.
The New Zealand Rural General Practice Network is transitioning to the new collective organization Hauora Taiwhenua Rural Health Network, which will be launched in Parliament on Tuesday 28 June 2022.
SoRHA will become a chapter of Hauora Taiwhenua and continue to run the Rural Health Careers Promotion Program with the support of a larger and more connected rural organization.
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