Service Learning Placements

What is a service learning placement?

And why could it benefit your degree?


Service learning is a placement model employed worldwide where students undertake placements in real world settings, providing much needed services to the community whilst gaining essential work ready skills.

In rural Australia, University Departments of Rural Health (UDRHs) develop service learning placements for nursing and allied health students. 

These students have the opportunity to work in various sectors and play an active role in bringing about tangible change, improving health outcomes for people living in rural communities. Community members value the important contribution students provide as they who often shed a new light on a situation or bring a certain special kind of energy to the environment.

Students on a service learning placement learn plenty when engaging with people living in a rural setting, from developing an understanding of the challenges of accessing health care, to growing a knowledge base of the many strengths that exist in rural communities. The opportunity to walk so closely in a rural person’s shoes creates a learning opportunity which cannot easily be conveyed in a text book or classroom lecture. Students leave rural service learning placements changed for the better with a greater understanding of citizenship, the true meaning of equality, and a comprehensive understanding of the context of rural health.

Please watch the video above about service learning placements by Going Rural Health.


Service learning placements allow a student to see their potential as a therapist, and occur in various settings including: mental health organisations, aged care facilities, schools, kindergartens, private practices and health services. On these placements a student has the opportunity to develop new programs, evaluate existing programs, extend services being provided so that more people can access health care timeously and contribute to the development of an allied health or nursing department. Faced with the challenge of limited resources rurally, students have the opportunity to think out of the box to ensure healthcare can still occur and individuals can still live a healthy life.

Service learning placements allow students to be able to demonstrate all they have learnt in the first few years of their degree, and develop the confidence in autonomously being able to provide care from assessment to discharge of a client or from development to implementation of a group. Navigating services such as the NDIS and My Aged Care on a service learning placement allows one to build confidence in understanding of these services, and supports people living in rural communities to fully access these services.

Students on service learning placement are highly valued by their host sites as they bring innovative solutions to the provision of health care. Nursing and Allied Health students specifically have contributed by:

  • developing tailor made exercise videos for nursing staff struggling with back pain
  • developing narrated power point presentations on how aged care facilities can counteract social isolation for clients
  • completing an evaluation of pressure care management, providing best practice guidance to staff
  • planning and delivering life skills programs for people who are homeless, and
  • supporting outpatient clinics to manage extensive waiting lists.

From exploring the needs of multicultural people in a regional city to delivering reminiscence therapy, students in service learning placements play an essential role in providing much needed services.

Please contact the Going Rural Health Team if you would like to further explore service learning placements available in rural Victoria.

Charmaine Swanson

Associate Lecturer Rural Health Community Placements, Going Rural Health Ballarat

Occupational Therapist