A program bringing allied health students to our district is receiving rave reviews one year in.
Charles Sturt University's Three Rivers Department of Rural Health has been hosting students in fields like physiotherapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy in Forbes and Parkes shires - and the program is proving a winner for all involved.
The goal of the $1.87 million program, announced in February 2022, was to encourage more allied health professionals to consider careers in country areas.
"The feedback at the end of placements is that they all find their host organisation very welcoming, and overall they enjoy the rural experience, the smaller community," the program's clinical educator Chelsea Lander said.
"One of our main aims is to develop that sense of belonging: to give them a feel for the benefits of rural practice."
Mrs Lander is one of the Forbes-based clinical educators, along with Louise French, facilitating what's called service learning placements: they're outside the typical hospital or health setting, with hosts including our schools, preschools and disability services so far.
They've been matching students who can come to our region with placements and clinical supervisors, and support them all through their placement.
Student accommodation is also supported while they're here, with the program purchasing and renovating a home in Forbes.
The teams of third and fourth year students complete five to eight week placements and they're leaving their hosts with a project they can use into the future.
"The whole idea of service learning is that it helps build capacity within that organisation," Mrs Lander said.
Professionally, students love the scope of practice in country communities and variety in their roles.
Forbes Preschool has hosted physiotherapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy students so far - all in their third or fourth year of study - and director Amy Shine said it's been amazing.
"They have so many skills and we are just loving sharing with them the way we work within the community," she said.
For the preschool in particular, it's been exciting to show students the impact they can have working in the early childhood sector.
"We want early education to be about playing and being and if we can have that knowledge we can integrate what we've learned into the general day," Ms Shine said.
Physiotherapy students on their placement developed a library of games to help develop catching and throwing, skipping, hopping, jumping and balancing.
"They've given us new ideas on how to develop these skills," Ms Shine said.
Some of the students have discovered the joy and reward of working in the paediatric sector, and that's good news.
"Even if it doesn't mean the students want to stay in Forbes we hope we'll be able to show them how great it is living rural and (working in) paediatrics - the difference we can make in these little people's lives," she said.
"It would be awesome to get people to Forbes but we will keep going: we want to make it attractive to come and live in Forbes."
A new community of practice the Charles Sturt University Three Rivers Department of Rural Health team is establishing here is another way of doing that.
Galari Gathering is tailored to connect allied health professionals in Forbes, Parkes and Lachlan shires, so they can exchange ideas and learn from one another.