Looking back over the last two years

Thinking about the positives

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year – and we’re taking a break for a while

Hopefully, and I’m being optimistic here, the worst is over for the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s been a challenging couple of years for a few reasons (and these are MY reasons):

    • Lockdowns
    • Placement cancellations and placement backlogs
    • Uncertainty
    • Stress and workloads, particularly on health and essential workforce
    • Frustration
    • Misinformation
    • Uncertainty

Yes, I deliberately added ‘uncertainty’ twice. I could have added the word to each and every line, because for me, as for a lot of people, uncertainty was the biggest issue over this time. Uncertainty has affected a lot of rural placements, health students completing rural placements, and our student support program, for much of the last two years. People were understandably reticent to go very far away from home – even when permitted – during lockdowns, or even between lockdowns, as we were always half expecting another one. And that is not even considering the personal repercussions, which have been considerable, and I’m certainly not minimising them in any way.

But I’ve come to realise, over the last 20-30 years, that I am at heart an optimist (with a sarcastic bent). I’m quite willing to admit the challenges we have faced recently, are facing, and will face in the future, are just that – challenging. The Cambridge Dictionary defines ‘challenging’ as

‘difficult, in a way that tests your ability or determination’

I think then that ‘challenging’ is the perfect word to describe this current time in our lives. It is also the perfect motivator for this blog post.

So at the moment most of us are a little tired, a little unmotivated, looking forward to a break (I personally haven’t had a decent one in a while), and lacking a bit of energy. Not forgetting that a lot of people are still feeling a little overwhelmed at the least by large crowds – and many are still avoiding them (including me). I prefer though to concentrate on the positives in all of that. I guess that didn’t read as positive? Ok, I’ll rewrite in positive dot points:

    • A break will enable us to recharge, as we are now able to travel again, to most of Australia (I’m momentarily frowning at you though now WA), and to limited places overseas. Hey, that is great news for tourist operators, small businesses, coffee shops, pubs and restaurants!
    • We’ll come back more motivated & relaxed, having had time away from work and sitting at our computers. We can sit on the beach, at outdoor tables at cafes and restaurants (and without the heaters on), and on bar stools. Sounds good to me. Especially the bar stools.
    • It’s summer, so more daylight, more sun, more heat and better weather is almost guaranteed. Get out and get some Vitamin D – safely – people! Increased Vitamin D has been linked by research to overall improvement in mood, in addition to the other well-known benefits such as healthy bones.
    • As someone who didn’t like large crowds pre-COVID (damned claustrophobia), I now have a really really really good excuse not to be around large groups of people. I think I can milk this for the next 10 years at least.
    • If you don’t like large crowds either, or aren’t comfortable being around large groups yet, small get togethers in the backyard are just as good. And no-one has to drive anywhere after a few drinks – we can even get more drinks or food delivered if we are silly enough to run out.

See? All positive!

COVID has also changed our focus a little. We seem to concentrate more on what is important, rather than superfluous activities. More quality time has been spent with family, many people have taken to new exercise routines and healthy eating & home cooking, and money has been saved and used for more essential purposes. I’ve lost track of the times someone has said to me that they have cut someone out of their life who was hurting them, but they would not have done it pre-COVID. We are valuing ourselves and our mental wellbeing, as we should. Again – a focus on the important!

Getting back to Going Rural Health though, 2022 is also looking positive in terms of rural placements. We’ve been working hard to develop a number of community-based rural placement opportunities, which will benefit students, but also local communities and (hopefully) rural workforce. With COVID prompting many people to think about moving out of metropolitan areas, rural employment has never looked so enticing. Which is doing part of our job for us – we’ve been selling the benefits of living and working rurally for a long time. Students have always enjoyed their rural placements – but they can now see themselves working rurally much more easily.

If you or your organisation would like to talk to us about nursing and/or allied health placement possibilities, contact us via our website or at going-ruralhealth@unimelb.edu.au .

Lastly, we’ll be taking a break from the blogs next year. It’s going to be an extremely busy year supporting students on rural placements, so we’ll be relying more on our newsletter and socials to distribute information. Old posts will still be available though. We’ll review at the end of next year as to whether we are ready to reinstate it.

Have a very Merry Christmas in 2021 – however you choose to celebrate. Just ensure that you do focus on everything worth celebrating – not least being a much-improved outlook COVID-wise. And make sure that the new year is also celebrated as a new beginning. How you see the future – positive, negative or otherwise – is completely up to you.

Trish Thorpe

Associate Lecturer, Rural Placement Co-ordinator

Going Rural Health Ballarat

Clinical Biochemist, Medical Scientist & Teacher