There now seems to be a real risk of losing the speech therapy services of one of Tenterfield's favourite daughters, Josie McIntyre, to Walgett upon her graduation. Although Josie has always intended to return to a country town when she finishes at Newcastle University at the end of next year, ideally back to Tenterfield to be close to family, her head has been turned by a Go Rural road trip funded by the NSW Rural Doctors Network (RDN).
Josie was among 19 medical students to 'go rural' in the four-day outback health initiative last week, taking in an array of medical and living experiences in rural areas. She was one of three participants with rural backgrounds swapping notes with the other 16 city slickers, some of whom hadn't been farther north than Newcastle.
She said there were a lot of interesting conversations on the long bus rides, and it was a valuable networking opportunity to start building relationships with a variety of other medical professionals she may be dealing with in the future in multi-discipline teams.
The trip was designed to encourage future doctors and health professionals to consider the benefits and rewards of a rural health career. It incorporated practice visits, clinical activities, community events, themed dinners, cultural events and historical exhibitions in towns including Tamworth, Narrabri, Walgett, Bourke, Brewarrina and Dubbo.
The highlight of the tour for Josie was clearly the Walgett Aboriginal Medical Service. She was impressed with the passion of the service's staff members and their achievements, in light of a difficult history of delivering health services to indigenous communities.
"It's a great facility for a small community," she said.
She was alarmed to learn that the town hadn't had a stable speech pathology service, with the current patient waiting list extending to five years. Given the importance of early intervention, she found that statistic alarming.
"I found it quite heartbreaking, but motivating," she said, now keen to live and work there.
Josie said in the non-medical area, her tour highlight was the Big Bogan in Nyngan.
She had one day back home before jetting out to Vietnam to volunteer for two weeks in two Hoi An schools, one for children with disabilities and the other for those with hearing impairments, playing into her speciality.
RDN CEO Richard Colbran said the Go Rural road trip gives medical, nursing, midwifery and allied health students the opportunity to see for themselves the amazing opportunities that working rurally offers, both professionally and socially.
"The health of our rural communities is dependent on the successful recruitment and retention of enthusiastic and dedicated health care professionals, who are an extremely valued and integral part of their local communities."
A second Go Rural trip is planned for later this year.