Written By

Rachelle McCabe

College

College of Healthcare Sciences

Publish Date

17 August 2022

Embarking on her career

As a sporty kid with a dedication to the books, a career in exercise physiology is a perfect fit for Samantha Beringen. But it took a post-high school gap year working with cardiac specialists for her to figure that out.

Now 23, the recent JCU Sport and Exercise graduate has just landed a full-time job at Physio North in Townsville, and she can’t wait to embark on her career.

“I’m really lucky to have a job already. I will be working alongside an experienced exercise physiologist helping with her case load and hopefully taking on a few more clients,” Samantha said. “There are six physios there as well so there are also lots of referral pathways for me.”

The recent graduate radiates with enthusiasm when asked to reflect on her time at JCU. The highlights? The small classes, support of academic staff and peers, and the opportunities offered to students through regional and city placements. And of course, the forever friendships made along the way.

Clinical Exercise Physiology students gain extensive practical experience during their studies.

Where it all began

Samantha grew up in Townsville and completed her schooling at Townsville Grammar School. After school she contemplated a few career options but wasn’t ready to commit to anything, so she took a gap year to work for the Townsville Cardiovascular Associates.

“It was the best thing - it gave me the money to travel, I took a couple of months off during my gap year and travelled around Europe. A lot of the technicians that worked started off as exercise physiologists, so that’s what led me down that path.

“I completely did a 180, I was due to head to Brisbane to study psychology which seems crazy to me now.”

With her family deciding to relocate to Brisbane at the end of Samantha’s first year of her Bachelor of Sport and Exercise Science degree, she was faced with a tough decision – transfer her studies to a Brisbane university and live with her family or find herself a share house in Townsville and complete her education at JCU. She chose the latter and couldn’t be happier.

It was the support, the friendships and the opportunities provided thanks to her rural and city-based placements that were the true highlights for Samantha.

“The main takeaway for me is if you want the opportunity to make close friends within your degrees and to have the extra support from teaching staff, JCU is a great option. It’s a real community environment,” she said. “And with our placements, just having extra opportunities to go rural and be exposed to a lot of different things.”

Samantha helps a resident in the aged care home use an exercise machine.
Samantha wearing personal protective equipment while on placement.
Left: Samantha assisting a resident at the Good Shepherd Aged Care home. Right: Samantha wearing full PPE while on placement. (Supplied by Samantha Beringen.)

Learning in the bush and in the city

Samantha completed an undergraduate Bachelor of Sport and Exercise Science before undertaking her Master of Clinical Exercise Physiology – the qualification needed to be employed as a Clinical Exercise Physiologist.

“I was really lucky with my placements. I got to go to Mount Isa twice, first in the undergraduate degree and more recently during my Masters. They were both very different experiences.

“The clinic we were placed in works mainly with Indigenous communities and we did so many different things like drug and alcohol rehab, falls prevention, we also did lots of community-based hydrotherapy programs.

“We did a lot of education sessions, so we talked about the role of exercise and how exercise affects diabetes, how it can strengthen your muscles to help with back pain.

“Having the opportunity to work really closely with the speech pathology students and the OT students was a bonus because in a practice that is the allied health team we’d be exposed to.”

Samantha was also able to hone her interest in neurological rehabilitation through a placement at Sporting Wheelies in Brisbane.

“Our main rehabilitation was working with people who had spinal cord injuries, that was such an amazing learning experience. We did a lot of gait re-training and locomotor training which exposed me to things that I’d never seen before and the equipment there was unbelievable,” Samantha said. “I’m very glad I got that opportunity to go to Brisbane and use some of the latest equipment.”

Rounding out her placement experience was a stint at Townsville’s Good Shepherd residential aged care facility where she focused on building strength and muscle memory among dementia patients.

“Exercise is really good for everyone, especially as we age. It was a controlled environment, very safe for them and I loved getting to know all the different residents.”

And although the all the placements involved lots of hard work and learning, there was also a time for fun and socializing. “Mount Isa especially was a lot of fun, because there are so many students from lots of different faculties. You end up becoming really good friends with them, so on the weekends we did a lot of exploring.”

As for what’s next? For now, Samantha is keen to learn as much as she can in her first exercise physiology role. She also hasn’t ruled out returning to Mount Isa or a regional area if the right opportunity came up in the future.

And she plans to keep absorbing as much knowledge as she can from the experts she’s exposed to in the years to come.

“A major take away from my placements is the importance of all the different practitioners working together, so the speech therapists, the OTs, the medical students all sharing their expertise. Having that kind of cohesive team environment really helps, I learnt so much from all of them.”

Discover JCU Sport and Exercise Science

Study the innerworkings of the human body and learn how to help people improve their overall health using exercise and muscle training.