Health Sciences

Jessica Hansson, Master of Clinical Exercise Physiology

Jessica Hansson

2015 ACU Alumni Awards

Winner: Young Alumni of the Year

Watch 2015 ACU Alumni Awards YouTube video

Jessica Hansson first completed her Bachelor of Exercise Science at ACU in 2009 and later completed her Masters of Applied Exercise Science (Exercise Prescription) at ACU in 2012.

Since then she has continued to pursue her passion of working with people with spinal cord injury and is committed to growing her expertise and experience in exercise physiology.

She is currently a lecturer at ACU’s Melbourne Campus in charge of Masters of Neurological Analysis and Prescription and a Senior Exercise Physiologist at Spinal Cord Injuries Australia (SCIA).

Jessica’s interest in working with clients with traumatic injuries began whilst completing her ACU master’s degree where her research project, Feasibility of ballistic strengthen exercises in neurologic rehabilitation, was published in the American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation in 2014.

Within the first two years of her employment at SCIA, she supervised more than 100 exercise physiology students from across universities in Melbourne. She has demonstrated and instilled in these students the importance of respect for clients, consideration of the potential vulnerability of clients and the important role that an exercise physiologist plays in successful treatment outcomes. Jessica challenged these students to think critically and be self-reflective to become better clinicians.

Jessica’s strong belief of the role of the clinical supervisor has led to her being awarded the 2013 Exercise and Sport Science Australia (ESSA) Practicum Supervisor of the Year award.

She has contributed to the development of an evidence-based publication, ESSA Outcome Measures for Exercise Physiologists, targeted to exercise physiologists and other allied health professionals.

Jessica says she chose ACU over other universities because of the smaller class sizes, positive feedback from previous students, and the social conscience embedded in the university ethos. She believes that the two main aspects that sets ACU apart is the knowledgeable and passionate lecturers and the overall university commitment to the less advantaged.

Jessica describes some of the highlights of her undergraduate degree. “We had a really close year level which made going to university enjoyable. Although it has been five years since I did my Bachelor’s degree I still catch up with a core group of friends. The Bachelor’s had a lot of different electives which allowed us to gain different coaching certificates and qualifications prior to graduating which helped us find work within our field.

"During my undergraduate degree, I was fortune enough to be doing some part time work at The Heartwell Foundation with children with disabilities. I heard about this organisation when the Managing Director came to speak to us one day during field experience. I soon became very passionate about rehabilitation and wanted to extend my knowledge further in the field. I spoke with Course Coordinator, Vanessa Rice and she recommended that I apply for the Master of Clinical Exercise Physiology.

"The two main aspects that I feel set apart the Master of Clinical Exercise Physiology at ACU compared to other universities is the smaller class sizes and the knowledgeable and passionate lecturers. The smaller class sizes allowed us to easily interact with our peers, become comfortable within our learning environment and ask for help and assistance when needed."

Jessica found the tutors at ACU to be incredibly helpful. “They went above and beyond to assist myself and my peers. I feel as though if it wasn't for their dedication to the program I wouldn't be where I am career wise today.

“Since graduating from ACU I have been working at Walk On, which is an intensive activity based rehabilitation program designed to assist a person with a spinal cord injury to improve and maximise their functional ability and lead a more independent life. It is a national program, run by Spinal Cord Injuries Australia with clinics in Sydney, Perth, Brisbane and Melbourne. It is very challenging and each day is different, which makes my job so rewarding.

“I am one of three Accredited Exercise Physiologists employed at Walk On Melbourne with approximately 30 clients per month attending the clinic. Client sessions are one on one with an AEP and often a therapy assistant. This close working environment allows us to build strong relationships with our clients and understand their needs. Students are also involved within these individual sessions, which allows them to get hands on and get the most out of their clinical placement. I am also the Clinical Supervisor for Walk On Melbourne and in charge of all things student related. Throughout 2012/13 we accommodated over 110 students on placement, totalling 8300 clinical hours.”

At such a young age, Jessica has experienced some outstanding career highlights. “My first career highlight was landing my dream job at Walk On Melbourne, especially coming straight from university. After working in the neurological field I was approached by ACU to become Lecturer in Charge of Neurological Analysis, Prescription and Rehabilitation at the Melbourne campus and although sometimes challenging, I am enjoying this responsibility. With my supervision of students at Walk On Melbourne I was also recently awarded the Exercise and Sport Science Australia (ESSA) Clinical Practicum Supervisor of the Year."

Jessica’s advice to students looking to follow a similar career path. “I was fortunate enough to attend Walk On Sydney as a student, and discovered my passion for neurological, specifically spinal cord rehabilitation. I suggest you find an area that interests you and try and focus in on this. When you find your passion it never feels like a day of work.”