Making connections with great people allows for great opportunities!
Marnie Norfolk met Louise Bibby at Victoria University around 2009. Marnie Norfolk (Osteopath) was working towards her Graduate Certificate in Tertiary Education whilst Louise was completing her studies to become an Osteopath. I remember a friendly, smart, active, passionate, country girl. Lou became an elite athlete and played in the VFLW. She has also set up the Osteo Sports Network to focus on promoting Osteopathy in Sports in Australia. The Osteo Sports Network is a way for sporting organisations around the globe to link in with Osteopaths in Australia. For example, when the Australian Tennis Open is on in Melbourne, the Osteo Sports Network can link athletes with Sports Osteopaths for management of injuries during the tournament.
Lou has achieved a great deal and is committed and passionate about bringing health services to the Mallee Region. She established her Clinic, Central Mallee Health in Swan Hill and regularly travels to remote towns in the region and brings quality Osteopathic Services to areas that would normally have little access to this type of healthcare. Lou is a great advocate for rural practice life in many ways, including maintaining connections with our universities to encourage Osteopathic Students to consider rural practice. She encourages and regularly invites Osteo students to do a rural internship in the Mallee Region.
When Marnie left university, she too explored a passion for sports. The topic of her Masters project was rehabilitation for chronic ankle sprains. The focus was to reduce football games missed through ankle injuries. Marnie and Lou enjoyed a meal in 2018 to discuss the Osteo Sports network. Both of us were keen to promote Osteopathy and our special interest areas of sport and paediatrics. Since 2018, we have continued to celebrate each other’s successes including Lou receiving Advanced Sports Osteopath titling with Osteopathy Australia and Marnie receiving Advanced Paediatric titling with Osteopathy Australia. Lou is an inspiring Osteopath, her dedication and commitment to provide quality healthcare to rural and remote communities is outstanding.
In the later part of 2022, I was delighted to be invited to spend some time with Lou and her team at Central Mallee Health, Swan Hill. The drive to Swan Hill is long (around 4 hours). I had never been to Swan Hill!! The drive was beautiful, and the accommodation provided was centrally located and super comfortable near the pioneer settlement in town. After settling in, I wanted to see the town and took some photos of the large Murray Cod and enjoyed some pub grub! Nothing like the fresh country air and friendly people. Early morning walks to see the sunrise and the Murray River were real highlights. Just the right location relaxing with Lou watching “Farmer wants a wife”!
Central Mallee Health is a well organised and caring clinic environment. Meeting the team members and patients was very enjoyable and productive. I had to learn that it is normal to wait 4 weeks for a GP appointment and to drive to Melbourne for an MRI! Some of the patients travelled to see me all the way from Halls Gap and Ballarat. Many travelled an hour for their appointment. I really enjoyed the opportunity to use my skills and experience to treat a variety of clients in a rural environment, it was such a rewarding experience. Many of the patients I met were children. I was able to assess gross motor skill development and release body tension using hands on osteopathic skills. Many patients were babies, for example a baby that had travelled to Melbourne for assessment for tongue and lip tie. The dentist recommended osteopathic treatment rather than a surgical approach. There are not many experienced osteopaths working with babies in the Mallee region. Lou is wonderful at treating babies, children and working with their families. She enjoyed having another experienced colleague to help more children and families. Some of the patients I met were adults who complained of migraines and chronic pains. We were able to explore osteopathy in the cranial field as an approach for helping manage these complaints.
I was able to spend time with all the team members at Central Mallee Health, each practitioner received a treatment, and most were able to observe and co-treat patients with me. Working in a more remote area reduces the number of opportunities to do continual professional development. In our modern world there are many podcasts and online learning platforms which is a wonderful support for remote health workers. I was able to run a lunch time tutorial for the team exploring manual approach to cranial venous sinus drainage. The team provided lunch and the hands on, face to face learning was a highlight of my visit to Central Mallee Health.
I would highly recommend Osteopaths from the city consider a journey to a rural community to collaborate, share ideas and improve access to health care in more remote areas of Victoria and Australia. I found it really satisfying, a wonderful experience in giving back. As an experienced Osteopath living in the city, I love what I do, life is very busy and it is hard to get the work/life balance. I have many wonderful patients to work with and treat a wide range of conditions. There are many opportunities to attend hands on and online professional development. In fact too many sometimes, to fit them all in. Rural practice is really rewarding. The variety of patient presentations is interesting. The practice work hours are more supportive of a great lifestyle. I did not need to work any weekends or late nights like I do in the city. The patients are so grateful to have more health care options in their local area and were very supportive of me being at Central Mallee Health.
Looking forward to my next visit!
See you soon Swan Hill