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Growing up in the farming community of Denbarker fostered the love of a rural lifestyle for physiotherapist Karen Rodgers-Smart.

Starting her own clinic MoveSmart Physiotherapy in her new hometown of Pingrup in 2017, Karen enjoyed growing up in regional WA surrounded by pets and outdoor beauty.

“I was fortunate to spend my childhood on the familyfarm in Denbarker,” she said.
“When I completed my Bachelor of Science (Physiotherapy) at Curtin University in 2012, I relocated to Albany working at a busy private practice for four years.
“I then opened MoveSmart Physiotherapy, which is now in its sixth year of operation.
“When I graduated, I knew I wanted to start my career in a rural area and have now enjoyed being a rural physio for 10 years.
“My career objective is to provide high quality health care to my small rural community to a standard readily available in metropolitan areas.”

With this goal in mind and the help of Rural Health West’s Health Workforce Scholarship Program, Karen recently finished her Professional Certificate in Pain Sciences through the University of South Australia.

The accreditation means Karen can now refine and expand her treatment approaches for clients with chronic pain.

“This program aims to improve the capacity of regional and rural communities by increasing evidence-based knowledge and management strategies about chronic pain.”

The accreditation means that under Karen’s care, her patients would receive best practice pain care with a focus on active self-management strategies.

With one in five Australians suffering from chronic pain, Karen said the issue was very prevalent in rural and remote areas.

“It is well-known that geographical isolation results in poorer health opportunities and outcomes and chronic pain management is no exception,” she said.
“Chronic pain in farming communities is often exacerbated by working long hours and seasonal work demands, which cycle from very physical to quite sedentary.
“Farming communities often have limited treatments available for chronic pain and can involve significant travel time (which is often very uncomfortable for someone suffering from chronic pain), travel costs (including the associated time off work) and time away from family.
“As a clinician I am excited by this new knowledge and skillset, as my patients now have a health professional with additional training in chronic pain at their fingertips, reducing the need to
travel to access such services.
“I look forward to the opportunity to provide my clientele with best practice pain care, focusing on increasing their pain knowledge.”

Karen is also excited to be part of Western Australia’s first cohort of Pain Revolution’s Local Pain Educator Program.

“This is the beginning of a bigger career development journey as I am now completing my mentorship with Pain Revolution.
“A component of the Local Pain Educator Program is providing public outreach training, which will involve me sharing this knowledge to other health professionals in our community.”

In her spare time Karen said life in the country meant enjoying time on her mixed sheep and crop farm with her husband Jamie and young son Henry.
She offered this advice for anyone looking at a tree change.

“Our rural areas are full of outdoor beauty. Living and working in a rural community gives you the opportunity to enjoy this beauty.
“Rural communities are very welcoming and will be sure to value and appreciate what you have to offer.”

The Health Workforce Scholarship Program (HWSP) is an initiative of the Australian Government Department of Health, administered in Western Australia by Rural Health West.

The HWSP provides scholarships and bursaries to help health professionals in remote and rural Australia retain and enhance their skills, capacity and scope of practice.

Applications for round 11 are now open to apply click here

Acknowledgement of Country