A new degree in speech pathology being offered at Federation University has been created to help tackle the shortage of allied health professionals in the region.
From next year, Federation University will offer a four-year Bachelor of Speech Pathology (Honours) degree which includes 1000 hours of clinical placements as part of the course.
Speech pathologists study, diagnose and treat communication and swallowing disorders, including difficulties with speech, language, fluency and voice with patients ranging from children to the elderly.
Professor Wendy Cross, Dean of Fed Uni's School of Health, said the university had consulted with health providers in the Grampians and Gippsland regions and conducted a survey of job shortages in coming up with the new degree.
"We found there are very, very low numbers of speech pathologist in the regions and one of the things that we also identified that's been happening alongside our work is the Royal Commission in to Disability, the Royal Commission in to Age Care and as well we noted the increasing number of children being diagnosed on the autism spectrum, many who have communication and speech difficulties," she said.
The royal commissions both spoke about the increasing need for allied health professionals in aged care and disability services, particularly on the back of an ageing population and regional areas already poorly supplied with allied health, in particular speech therapists.
Federation is also launching a Master of Speech Pathology where those with an education, nursing or health science background can add to their qualifications.
Professor Cross said training allied health professionals in regional areas made it more likely they would stay and practice in non-metropolitan settings.
"The majority of our graduates go on to live and work in regional areas so we are confident that offering new allied health programs like speech pathology will lead to good local jobs for our graduates and better health care for people in Ballarat and Gippsland," she said.
"Speech pathologists are in demand and it's a very rewarding career. These degrees are designed to suit people looking to start a career or people who are already working in the health or education sectors and looking for a change."
Ballarat Health Services executive director primary and community care Craig Wilding said BHS had seen a continuing increase in demand for speech pathology.
"As a regional health service, our speech pathologists have the opportunity to gain experience across a variety of clinical areas including oncology, paediatrics, neurology, palliative care and rehabilitation," he said.
"Our hope is that having a local degree will encourage the next generation of speech pathologists to stay and work regionally."
Federation University has also announced that year 12 students will be able to secure a place at the university before they sit their exams or receive an ATAR score as part of a new early offers program.
"We know that a lot of Year 12 students are finding it really tough this year. They've done their entire two years of VCE in a global pandemic," said Federation University vice chancellor Professor Duncan Bentley.
IN OTHER NEWS
"We want them, and anyone thinking about a career change or further study, to know that we understand how difficult it has been and we are here to support them to achieve their dreams."
The early offers program, being launched as part of the university's virtual Open Day on Sunday, has been introduced to help take the pressure off secondary school students who are already struggling with finishing their studies and making decisions about their future during a global pandemic.
The program includes more than $5 million in scholarships including support for high performing students and those relocating to regional Victoria, as well as women in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) and students studying in growth industries.
The Open Day for prospective university and TAFE students will include live information sessions on courses, the chance to chat with experts in virtual drop-in booths, and current students and graduates will be available to answer questions.
To register for Federation's virtual open day, visit www.federation.edu.au/openday
Our team of local journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the Ballarat community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content: