Local pupils get taste of medicine and other careers in rural health

Raglan Area School’s year 10 pupils got to tackle everything from measuring blood pressure and testing reflexes to CPR in hands-on health workshops held last week under the tutelage of visiting tertiary students.

The local pupils also learnt how to call for help and assess an emergency, apply a bandage, use a stethoscope, count their heart rates and even familiarised themselves with dentistry equipment – all thanks to a Students of Rural Health Aotearoa initiative encouraging pupils to consider careers in country areas.

Most of the medical students touring Waikato schools like Raglan’s are from rural backgrounds themselves so are “highly motivated” to encourage young people and give them the realisation that they too can gain a tertiary qualification, says the New Zealand Rural General Practice Network which is overseeing the initiative.

Most importantly, the network says, these students can inspire others like them to become one of the many health professionals “so badly needed” in  rural communities.

The 10 tertiary students who visited the area school were in training to become doctors, midwives, dentists, pharmacists and the like.

The group, who are mostly studying at Auckland tertiary institutions, were led last Tuesday morning to a senior classroom at Raglan Area School by local kaumatua and cultural advisor Russell Riki where a whakatau or informal welcoming ceremony took place.

Fellow kaumatua Sean Ellison acknowledged the visitors’ role in taking the time to talk to Raglan’s young people. “You might inspire one of them to walk in your footsteps,” he said.    

Matua Russell reinforced the message.“Our visiting students are here to show you what they do … listen and learn about the (kind of) choices you can make,” he told the predominantly 14 year olds who, national research suggests, are at an ideal age to be considering  their future careers.

Matua Sean told of the role of his own father, Tom Ellison, as a doctor in the rural sector and the huge responsibility he carried as Raglan’s sole GP for the first two decades of his 45-year practice in town, which started back in 1966.

“It was very difficult to get support then because nobody wanted to come to Raglan; now everybody wants to be here,” he quipped, although not always in a professional capacity.

The local year 10s then split into five groups for the afternoon workshops using authentic equipment and learning basic principles in a fun, safe and interactive setting.

Edith Symes