Rural placement offers unique learning experience for nursing student in the heart of Alice Springs

‘Palya!’ from the Northern Territory’s Central Desert; Western Sydney University Bachelor of Nursing student and recipient of the 2021 RHUWS Rural Placement Grant, Cara Smith, completed a rural placement at Alice Springs Hospital.

For Cara Smith, a third-year student studying a Bachelor of Nursing (Online) at Western Sydney University, living, studying, and working in rural Northern Territory has provided unique learning opportunities in healthcare not found in big city hospitals.

As the recipient of the 2021 Rural Health Union Western Sydney (RHUWS) Rural Placement Grant, Mrs Smith says her four week practical nursing placement at Alice Springs Hospital was a highly valued experience that ignited her passion for rural health care.

“Like all hospitals, ‘normal’ ward duties are the crux of hospital life, but around the edges, I was exposed to many regionally unique and personalised practices I just don’t think happen elsewhere,” said Mrs Smith.

“Most patients – adults and children – have a family chaperone stay overnight with them to reduce the longing for family. Another important element of care is incorporating bush medicine with western medicine to ensure that culturally safe practices are provided.

“The joy of Aboriginal language openly spoken and shared whilst on remote nursing prac was one of my sheer delights. I’d be listening intently to language, being taught a word, then speaking it to another person, only for us to end up in complete hysterics together at my lack of pronunciation,” she said.

Living in the Northern Territory’s Central Desert, Ms Smith studies nursing online, with Alice Springs Hospital being the closest training hospital at 450kms away from her home in Yulara.

Accessing a traditional university campus for classes can be challenging for those living in rural and remote areas, however the flexibility of online studies, together with rural hospital placement has developed Mrs Smith’s skills and confidence to embark on community work.

“Alice Springs has a little piece of my heart, with its red craggy rocky backdrop, its dry heat and cool café scene. It’s a vibrant town and in the medical realm there are many students and junior clinicians from all over Australia, and the hospital has amazing student catch-ups each week”.

“My placements in Alice Springs have been fulfilling, fun and educational. I, personally, will jump at any opportunity to work remotely in the future.”

Mrs Smith said the team of professionals who work in the remote field are passionate and there are some incredible opportunities to be sought.

“My advice, if you, even for a second, think you may enjoy remote work, get amongst it.”

“You'll be extended clinically and personally; and, you'll have some good yarns to tell at the end of it all.”

For more information on the Bachelor of Nursing (Online) course, visit:

RHUWS Allied Health Grants and Rural Placement Grants promote rural health careers to students and encourage students who are interested in practising in rural health care. Financial grants up to $1000 are provided to students in the following programs to undertake a rural placement in:

  • Nursing/Midwifery
  • Health Science (Paramedicine)
  • Physiotherapy
  • Occupational Therapy
  • Speech Pathology
  • Podiatric Medicine

For more information and to apply, visit: in a new window)


1 March 2022

Danielle Aiken, Media Officer