A blog post drawing on her Bachelor of Health Science (Western Herbal Medicine) studies and wisdom from her grandmother about the benefits of herbs, led Nikki Ward to win the Integria Practitioner Symposium 2023 Student Blog Competition. In her final year at Torrens University, Nikki already holds a science degree and previously worked in a corporate environment, until she became ‘enamored with the opportunities that plants have to heal us’.
Why did you decide to write about ‘The top 5 herbal treatments you probably already own’?
‘I really fell in love with herbs and feel an obligation to share the knowledge that our grandmothers and great-grandmothers had about ways we can use them. This knowledge has been around for thousands of years, and I don't want to be the generation that loses it. With my science background and my studies at Torrens, I like to combine the evidence-based foundation for why we use herbs with the long tradition of people being able to heal themselves from their own gardens.
‘Intergria Practitioner is a Natural Health industry organisation, and one of our herbal medicine lecturers shared information about their competition with our class. It was open to anyone who’s studying Natural Medicine. I took it from there and wrote the post.’
Nikki explains why she values studying Western Herbal Medicine at Torrens University
‘One of the things I like about studying at Torrens University is the expertise of our teachers. Torrens is a relatively new institution, but it has brought together a long history of natural medicine training in Australia. We have the benefit of a lot of brilliant content in our curriculum and amazing people to learn from. Also, I'm a regional student, so I value being able to do much of my theory work online.’
What are your career plans after you graduate?
‘There are so many opportunities. I'd like to be a clinical herbalist and have one-on-one engagement with people in the community. I believe that educating people on how to look after their health and to feel equipped to drive their wellbeing is very important. I want to help people to feel more connected with their own bodies and their own health. Also, I come from a corporate background, so perhaps longer term I can contribute in some way to working in industry or even be involved in research to further the use of herbs in our country.’
What would you like to share with other Natural Medicine students?
‘The course is hard sometimes and learning the names of the herbs is like learning a whole new language. To help you day to day, remember what our purpose is, what brought us to our studies in the first place – we're part of a long history of people who love and use herbs. When the challenges come, keep your eyes on the importance of what we're doing.’
Ian Breakspear comments on Nikki’s blog
Ian Breakspear, Senior Learning Facilitator – Naturopathy & Western Herbal Medicine, says, ‘It's a really well-written piece, using clear language, and Nikki should be commended for it. Her post explains the value of medicinal plants, which in many cases are plants that we take for granted, such as lavender and rosemary.’
Why is it important for Natural Medicine students such as Nikki to connect with the industry?
Ian says, ‘This connection helps students to see that the industry can provide so many job opportunities in naturopathy and herbal medicine. You may want to go into private practice, but there are lots of other opportunities as well. So make yourself known by attending conferences, through joining professional associations; get out there and meet others in the profession and in the industry, develop your skills, and open up to the many opportunities for your future.’
How does Torrens University encourage our students’ success?
‘What we're delivering,’ Ian explains, ‘is not theory on its own, but also practical information for practical applications. Ensuring that we offer this practical and vocational focus in our curriculum is important. Also, having in-house training clinics is essential as well. The students don’t just observe practitioners working with patients, but they actually take responsibility for managing those patients, under supervision from our clinical supervisors.
‘A particular benefit for our students is that our lecturers have many, many years of experience and often are still in clinical practice. For instance, I spend one and a half days a week in clinical practice. This helps me to contextualise and learn continuously from that engagement with patients. Then I bring that experience into the classroom.
‘On a broader scale, there’s the effort we make as a university to establish connections with professional and industry bodies and to develop research opportunities that benefit our students.’
Ian Breakspear’s advice for our Natural Medicine students
‘I'd like to emphasise that naturopathy and herbal medicine are part of the healthcare choice of the Australian community. They’re not separate, or alternative to any other form of healthcare. It's about sharing and collaborating with other Health providers to achieve the best outcomes for patients. Naturopathy and herbal medicine can add a valuable dimension to public healthcare. We don’t practice in a fringe discipline. We are part of the overall healthcare solutions available to the Australian public.
‘Another point to be aware of is the diversity of roles open to you when you graduate. So a big message I want to give our students is to think broadly.’