Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workers and Health Professionals make valuable contributions to healthcare across Australia through their clinical and cultural knowledge skills. Creating sustainable career pathways for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workers in the health sector is vital to help close the gap in Indigenous health outcomes. In an effort to close the gap, Generalist Medical Training provides funding for general practitioner trainees working in Indigenous communities and their cultural mentors to undertake an engagement activity with school students to increase awareness and foster interest in health careers.
This year, we held a pilot health careers promotional program ‘Deadly Health Jobs’ at the Thursday Island Primary Healthcare Centre for 85 year six and seven Indigenous students to inspire them to consider a future career in healthcare. The event was kindly funded by Generalist Medical Training and Torres and Cape Hospital and Health Service with generous donations from James Cook University and the Congress of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nursing and Midwives. In groups of six, students rotated around eight different health career related stations where they had the opportunity to meet Indigenous doctors, nurses, health workers and allied health staff. At least 50% of our volunteers were Indigenous health staff and 80% work on Thursday Island.
Here are our eight stations:
1 Hand hygiene – students applied GlitterBug Potion to their hands which lights up under a UV light and mimics the distribution of germs. Even after washing their hands, commonly missed spots light up, highlighting the importance of good hand hygiene.
2 Plaster casts – students were taught how to apply a forearm plaster casts, by far the most popular station of the event!
3 Microscopy – students looked at various microscope slides such as red blood cells, yeast, hair and onion layers.
4 Fish hook removal – students learnt how to remove fish hooks from pork belly, a common occurrence in the Torres Straits!
5 Dental fillings – students were taught by our dental team how to prepare and fill a tooth cavity.
6 Personal protective equipment – students dressed up in gowns, gloves, hats and booties, learning about the importance of PPE in healthcare.
7 Thickened fluids – students had the opportunity to learn about and taste different thickened fluids.
8 Pig heart dissection – another very popular station, students learnt about the anatomy of the heart by dissecting real pig hearts!
Deadly Health Jobs was a hugely successful event! The three most popular activities were applying plaster casts, dissecting pig hearts and wearing personal protective equipment. Of the students who attended, 53% were inspired to consider a health career, 72% would like to attend the event again and 69% felt more comfortable attending the primary healthcare centre as a result of the event. This pilot program illustrates the feasibility of undertaking a successful health careers promotional events for Indigenous students. We hope to make this a yearly event for students on Thursday Island.