In a bid to tackle the severe lack of health professionals in rural communities, two teams of tertiary students are heading to Hawke's Bay, Gisborne, and Bay of Plenty to promote rural health careers to high school students.
They are trying to inspire more young rural people to pursue careers as GPs, nurses, or other health practitioners as part of Hauora Taiwhenua’s nationwide Rural Health Careers Programme.
Hauora Taiwhenua CE, Dr Grant Davidson highlights the importance of training more healthcare workers and motivating them to work in rural areas.
“The rural school visits are an integral part of our Rural Health Careers Promotion Programme which hopes to reverse the current rural health workforce crisis in New Zealand," says Grant.
"More than half of our 195 rural practices are grappling with vacancies, and within the next 10 years, about 50 per cent of these GPs are set to retire.
“We need to have more people training as doctors, nurses, physios, and other health professions who are likely to work in rural areas.
"All the supporting evidence that shows that students from rural backgrounds are more likely to return and give back to their rural communities.”
Having tertiary students on health training pathways is a great way to expose rural youth to possible health careers. Discussing their opportunities with tertiary students near their own age is a great way to motivate and educate them.
It is also a practical way for tertiary health students to give back, with many from rural backgrounds sharing their real-life experiences.
Kyla Fung, a Medicine Student on the 2022 programme, describes how the trip greatly facilitated her own personal understanding of rural health.
“I saw the value of smaller communities and just how strongly they were connected to one another and their land," says Kyla.
"It expanded my understanding of what a good quality life looks like, and where healthcare fits into that.
"I feel very grateful for the opportunity to visit these schools and plant that seed in some of our youth's hearts, inspiring me to consider a move from major cities to live and work in a smaller area."
The workshops are interactive, giving hands-on experience with medical and dental equipment and a chance to talk first-hand with young people who have already embarked on this journey.