Students to go to the margins in new model

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From Semester One in 2022, ACU health students will undertake practical placements with CatholicCare, with a special focus on serving marginalised clients. Photo: 123RF

The Australian Catholic University has announced an exciting new partnership with the Archdiocese of Sydney’s welfare agency, CatholicCare aimed at embedding Catholic social teaching in a more practical way in ACU’s undergraduate programs across fields such as speech pathology and occupational therapy.

From Semester 1 next year, undergraduate and some postgraduate allied health students at ACU’s Sydney campuses will undertake their practical placements with CatholicCare, with a focus on serving marginalised clients, especially those with a disability.

The partnership has been announced to coincide with Allied Health Professionals Day on 14 October: an annual event which celebrates and brings together the allied health professional community.

Through the program, ACU students will be matched with CatholicCare staff in their area of expertise who will act as supervisors and mentors, not only in passing on professional skills, but also in ensuring that their care reflects Catholic values.

“While we try to embed Catholic social teaching in all our courses at ACU, this program will take this a step further by also making it a lived experience of professional practice, so that the CatholicCare staff will, for example, mentor client-centered care during the students’ practical placements”, explains the Deputy Head of the School of Allied Health at ACU, Associate Professor Elspeth Froude.

“In applying Catholic social teaching to healthcare, there’s a strong focus on client-centered care, which is reflected in involving clients more in decisions around their own personal care and ensuring that they’re fully informed about the healthcare options that are available to them … Through working closely with CatholicCare, we’ve teamed up with an organisation that shares the same values around respecting the inherent dignity of each client which can only then translate into a better quality service as well”, she added.

CatholicCare believes the new partnership is likely to have many long-term benefits, helping it train up future generations of healthcare workers who have a first-hand understanding of Catholic healthcare.

In applying Catholic social teaching to healthcare, there’s a strong focus on client-centered care, which is reflected in involving clients more in decisions around their own personal care and ensuring that they’re fully informed about the healthcare options that are available to them

The General Manager of Clinical Therapies and Disability Services with CatholicCare, Ms Kerryn Tutt said the partnership will further strengthen the ties between Catholic Care and ACU.

“Some of the students have already undertaken placements with CatholicCare this year and they’ve been able to experience first-hand how we translate Catholic values into practice, as we look beyond the commercial imperative and focus on how we can deliver personalised care that’s tailored to meet the needs of the client, whatever stage of life they’re at, whether that involves children or adolescents and right through to the elderly as well”, she said.

While the new partnership will initially focus on speech pathology and occupational therapy, there are plans to expand it in time to cover other allied health disciplines including physiotherapy and podiatry.

Madeleine Borsato, a fourth year Speech Pathology student with ACU, recently completed a 7-week placement with CatholicCare Sydney.

“From a student perspective this partnership between ACU and CatholicCare Sydney is so very valuable for our learning, our career prospects and for the care of our future clients.

“I was fortunate that ACU provided me with easy access to work experience with CatholicCare Sydney, particularly in a time when there has been so much uncertainty due to COVID and placements have been hard to secure. CatholicCare in turn provided me with great support and guidance during my placement, helping me to identify my strengths and giving me the very beneficial experience of working in a multi-disciplinary team. It is also very encouraging to think that I may have the opportunity for employment with CatholicCare Sydney on completion of my course, thanks to this partnership”, Ms Borsato said.

The Head of Discipline and National Course Coordinator in the Bachelor of Speech Pathology program at ACU, Dr Jane McCormack, said one of the benefits in the new partnership was it allowed students to effectively work in an inter-disciplinary context in which they could, for example, work closely with speech pathologists and occupational therapists at the same time in caring for a patient.

“It’s quite rare to be able to provide that experience to undergraduate students until they actually graduate and start working full-time. So the inter-disciplinary nature of the collaboration, not only benefits the students, but it also benefits the clients as well to have our future generations of allied health workers with that dimension to their training”.