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Earlier this year, Beth Hines, 3rd year AUT Paramedicine Student, volunteered for Hauora Taiwhenua’s Rural Health Careers Promotion programme. Beth’s passion for rural healthcare was ignited during her attendance at the Rural Health Interprofessional Programme in Greymouth. Today, she is employed as a paramedic intern with Hato Hone St John, a direct outcome of her active participation in these initiatives and the meaningful relationships she cultivated.

Her participation in the rural school visits was made possible through a collaborative partnership between AUT and Hato Hone St John, which generously sponsored Beth’s involvement as a volunteer. AUT continued its support by sponsoring two more students following this, Pavan Sharma and Hannah Williams (pictured below).

Mel McAulay, Programme leader of the AUT Paramedicine Department, shed light on AUT’s vision and commitment to encouraging students’ participation in rural health initiatives.

“Aotearoa has an aging population and continues to experience inequities in health service access and provision in rural areas and in Māori and Pasifika communities, this is compounded by a growing workforce shortage in rural communities. Programmes such as rural health in schools allow high school age children to understand career options that are available to them in the health sector, that they may not have previously considered.”

Paramedicine, often misunderstood by the public as a mere transportation service, is evolving into a multifaceted profession. Paramedics now operate in ‘non-traditional’ settings, including primary care, making it crucial to showcase the expansive career opportunities a paramedicine degree can offer.

One of its fundamental elements is community engagement, which plays a significant role in students’ education and development.

“It helps break down barriers between communities and health workers, allows for community education around what paramedics can or might do if you call them and hopefully encourages more people to consider a career in paramedicine.”

AUT also supports students to attend the interprofessional rural health programmes funded by Te Whatu Ora. Two programmes run out of four sites across the country, with the University of Auckland running programmes out of Whakatāne and the Hokianga and the University of Otago out of Tairāwhiti and Greymouth.
McAuley emphasised the importance of tertiary institutions’ proactive engagement in initiatives that benefit the broader health sector and enhance patient outcomes.

“Programmes that break down barriers between different health professions and between communities and health providers are integral to improving health outcomes, particularly across our most vulnerable communities.”