Service learning placements

Service learning in health sciences connects academic learning with real-life situations. Such experiences allow students to develop critical thinking in a safe and controlled manner, as well as enhance students’ knowledge of different populations and patients and their understanding of social health determinants.

In order to meet pre-identified community needs, service learning placements are created in consultation with host organisations. The purpose of the placement is for the student to fill one of these identified needs by providing a service or completing a project.

We currently support service learning placements for allied health students from undergraduate speech pathology, physiotherapy and occupational therapy courses.

The emphasis of the Three Rivers Service Learning Placement Model is on local need and allowing the student to become fully immersed in a rural community.


  • Contribute to improving health outcomes in rural communities
  • Develop project management skills
  • Develop knowledge of social responsibility
  • Develop non-clinical skills, such as communication and education
  • Develop cultural awareness
  • Learn about the role of a health professional as part of a community
  • Exposure to potential future job opportunities.

Placement structure

Students undertaking service learning placements are supported to design and complete a project in their host organisation. An allied health professional may or may not already be working at the host organisation. Where there is no allied health professional working within the organisation, the student is supervised on-site by a suitably trained professional within the facility, and regularly (usually weekly) by an off-site discipline-specific professional supervisor (either from a private facility or university).

Examples of appropriate projects include:

  • Development and/or assessment of a new or existing program for either an individual client or a group of clients.
  • Creation and/or assessment of a new or current resource kit, training handbook or educational package.
  • Conduct a survey or audit within the organisation.
  • Analysis of specific activities or evaluations in the workplace.

Case study

A final year physiotherapy student was placed within an Aboriginal community controlled health organisation (ACCHO) service for five weeks. During the placement, the student immersed in the culture of both the organisation and the community it serves. She worked across all teams in the organisation, specifically with the exercise physiologist, focusing on working with clients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. With no physiotherapist on staff, clinical supervision occurred through a Three Rivers funded external physiotherapist who was also an academic from the higher education institution. The physiotherapist had a previous relationship with the site and visited weekly to consult with the student and staff. Outside of this supervision, the student was supported with guidance, mentoring, and encouragement from interprofessional staff within the ACCHO.

… I think that this placement sets us up well for our future practice and makes us really employable as I have learnt so much about cultural safety and how to practice in a culturally appropriate manner.

… you are immersed in the community and culture, more so than in a mainstream service, which I think is really valuable.

One of the greatest things about my placement was that I got to do so many different things that was [sic] very different to a standard hospital placement … made me feel like I was a part of the team.

Free open learning modules

We offer free online modules to get you ready for your placement.

Rural Clinical Placements – Your journey starts here

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