Kate Smedley is an Adelaide local who came to Darwin to undertake her first work-based clinical practice placement as part of her Master of Occupational Therapy degree.
Her eight-week placement is at the Palmerston Regional Hospital (PRH), where she will gain a wide breadth of experience. “For the first half of my placement, I was placed in the Emergency Department (ED), also covering the Medical Ward. For the second half of my placement, I have been moved to the Geriatrics Evaluation and Management ward (GEM) due to a high demand for more Occupational Therapy (OT) staff” says Kate. “The whole experience has been incredibly valuable to my life, both personally and professionally. Every staff member and patient at Palmerston hospital has been so valuable to my learning. My supervisor and team members are beyond supportive of my learning and treat me as an equal team member which is really encouraging.”
The hospital is only 20-minutes away from her low-rate subsidised student accommodation, which is right next door to a large shopping centre in Darwin. She also has access to a Flinders-provided share car– which, combined with low traffic levels, certainly makes her daily commute easy and convenient.
Kate shares her unit with other students, who just like her came to Darwin on placement. “Having roommates who are also Flinders students has been a great support to have. The Flinders accommodation is amazing! It is in a great location, spacious with all the amenities you could want and even has a pool. There is also so much to do on the weekends: visit national parks, waterfalls, lagoons, bars, restaurants, wildlife parks, music festivals and so much more.”
In addition to that, Kate received a lot of support from the Flinders NT team: “Flinders NT team has not only made this opportunity possible, but they have made it incredible. I find comfort in knowing the people I have to support me really want the best for me, and they genuinely care. I could not have asked for better people to have as a support system during my placement in the NT.”
Although a self-described introvert, Kate taps into her sensitive side and her compassionate qualities when working with clients. “I am very empathetic and can be quite emotional at times, but I use these characteristics of my personality as a strength in my practice. I consider myself a very loyal and trustworthy person. I will do anything in my power to support people around me.
Kate is very passionate about caring for other people and always wants to do everything in her power to improve a person’s quality of life. “OTs are holistic thinkers. We have a person centred and creative approach whilst advocating for every single person that we meet. The relationships we build with clients are based on trust. Being able to support someone to feel safe, independent, and happy in daily life is something I find really special.”
Although full of self-doubt at first, Kate was able to overcome the self-perceived barriers and get out of her comfort zone. “I am not a very confident person when it comes to new social situations. I get anxious easily and in the past that has stopped me from taking on new opportunities and experiences. I have made myself so proud because I have proven to myself that I am capable and can thrive in any environment if I give myself the chance. My supportive supervisor and team members have been a major help in allowing me to achieve these feelings of confidence.”
Kate has a useful piece of advice to others, who just like her struggle to get out of their comfort zones and embrace new opportunities: “Take every chance you can get to experience new environments and learn an incredible amount. Do something that challenges you. You will be supported by Flinders staff, placement staff and other students that you can always ask for help and know that there are people here who want the best for you. Try something new, take in as much as you can and make yourself proud.”
When asked if she would come back to the NT for another placement or to work as an OT in the future, she says: “Absolutely, I cannot express how incredible it has been. Anyone that has the opportunity to experience a placement in the NT should challenge themselves and say yes! There is a special feel to life in the NT and working in Palmerston Hospital has been amazing. Everyone I have met is so supportive of each other and that is the kind of work environment I dream of.”