The national team includes placement officers Ms Louise Buchanan, Ms Sonia Chapman, Ms Sharyn Clark, Mr Philip Cross, Ms Diana Favorito, Ms Robyn Germain, Ms Penny Macauley, Mrs Anna Nel, Ms Antoniette Pugh, Ms Anna Raftis, Mr Jai Rankine, Ms Kerri Williamson; team leaders Ms Lara Demetrios, Ms Sue Hayes and Ms Janet Ryan; and Business Analyst Ms Christina Pham.

Together, these staff members coordinate essential placements for health sciences students that are required as part of their course.

It’s a busy role in regular times, but the team has faced significant challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic because of the complexity of navigating different public health orders in each state, and varied interpretations of the health orders by different industry partners.

Through it all, they’ve adopted a positive, respectful and responsive approach to customer service for students, staff and key industry placement partners.

Flexing with the times

Placement Services Team Leader Lara said the team has shown great adaptability, teamwork and perseverance when dealing with the complexities and challenges that have arisen because of the pandemic.

“The team has dealt with multiple placement cancellations and reallocations on a daily basis, often with really short notice,” she said.

Requirements for PCR testing for the virus and vaccinations for students before placement added another layer of complexity to the team’s work.

“They coordinated and implemented many new code-specific pre-placement requirements based on either government guidance or the needs of the placement partners themselves. They’ve really continued to work closely together to support and manage the expectations of our stakeholders, particularly students, who have found this to be an anxious time.”

Communication has been crucial in delivering this outstanding service and strengthening relationships with placement partners.

Lara said the team has collaborated with staff from each discipline and ACU’s placement partners to ensure that all students are aware of the latest advice on placement activities and what they need to do to meet their placement requirements.

One focus for the team has been ensuring graduating students have been able to complete their compulsory placements on time, despite lockdowns.

“It’s through the successful negotiation and renegotiation of placements with our placement providers at the point of cancellations that the team has been able to prioritise our course-completing students and get them across the line,” Lara said.

“Getting their heads around all of the requirements has been a feat in itself, so they’ve done an outstanding job.”

Louise is a Placement Officer based at the North Sydney Campus. She said that the team has had to be versatile, resilient and dynamic during the pandemic, as they navigate ongoing and rapid change.

“We’ve had to adapt to site requirements, and we’ve been very focused on communicating with the students and understanding the impact of those changes on them,” she said.

Alongside the team’s efforts to ensure student placements were able to proceed despite the pandemic, they also worked on other projects to continually improve service for students, staff and placement partners. These included developing a clear process to guide academics through due diligence and risk assessment for placements.

Service that gives back

Proof of the team’s impressive service has come through informal feedback from stakeholders on an almost daily basis.

Robyn is a Placement Officer based in Queensland, where some students were pulled from a placement one day, only to be put back the next day thanks to changing COVID restrictions. She said this feedback from students and placement providers has been a real highlight for the team.

“There’s not a day that goes by that someone doesn’t say, ‘Listen to this lovely email from a student saying we’ve done so well…: Thank you so much, thank you, you saved me, you’ve helped me. I now understand it.’

“The feedback we get, even though not formalised, shows we’re doing a good job.”

The team were delighted to receive the Vice-Chancellor’s Staff Excellence award as testament to their hard work.

“The recognition and appreciation, on a broader scale, from the university has been really heart-warming,” Lara said. “It’s been quite a testing time in the last two years, so being recognised within this kind of environment is extra special.”

 Louise Buchanan Sonia Chapman Sharyn Clark Philip Cross Lara Demetrios Diana Favorito Robyn Germain Sue Hayes Penny Macauley Anna Nel Christina Pham Antoniette Pugh Anna Raftis Jai Rankine Janet Ryan Kerrie Williamson
Page last updated on 22/11/2021

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