Rural Training Pathways Needed for Nurses and Allied Health
24 October 2016 at 9:59 am
Better training pathways and promotion are needed to convince more nurses and allied health professionals to go rural, according to a new not-for-profit study.
Rural Health Workforce Australia (RHWA) commissioned the study in collaboration with Monash University Department of Rural Health, University of Newcastle Department of Rural Health, and the Centre for Remote Health in Alice Springs.
The report made 11 recommendations around the idea that large gains can be quickly achieved in attracting nurses and allied health professionals by increasing awareness of non-urban practice.
The report said most participants reported little awareness of initiatives and incentives aimed at increasing rural recruitment.
Consequently, it said a key recommendation centred upon better promotion and marketing of rural and remote practice, providing and supporting rural practice experiences for students and early career professionals, supporting the transition to rural and remote practice, and developing clear career pathways in rural and remote Australia.
As a result, the report said there was a strong need for focused, positive marketing of opportunities, both during students’ undergraduate training and in their early career employment.
“This marketing would focus upon increasing awareness that a rural or remote career can be very rewarding, and offers opportunities and advantages that are not available in the urban setting,” the report said.
Chair of RHWA Dr Ross Maxwell said: “Nursing and allied health professionals such as physiotherapists and psychologists are critical to meeting the health needs of rural and remote Australians.
“We believe this report is timely given the Australian Government’s greater emphasis on the role of Australian-trained graduates in addressing mal-distribution of health workforce in rural Australia.
“One of the core building blocks of a better rural workforce pipeline is the new Rural Health Multidisciplinary Training Program, with a renewed focus on nursing and allied health students.”
The study explored the attitudes of 36 students and 34 recent nursing and allied health graduates from Adelaide, Darwin, Melbourne and Newcastle.
The report found these young professionals were heavily influenced by positive clinical and personal rural experiences, including a sense of connection to people, place and community.
Among the report’s recommendations are:
- a structured rural graduate program for allied health, similar to that offered for medicine and nursing
- positive marketing of rural careers as professionally rewarding, with solid “generalist” foundations for clinical practice
- financial support for accommodation and transport to enable more nursing and allied health students to undertake rural and remote training placements
- encourage urban universities to increase their intake of nursing and allied health students from country areas, given that rural origin is an important determinant of future rural practice.
Maxwell said the recommendations also reflected the views of future rural health leaders at the National Rural Health Student Network (NRHSN) which is managed by RHWA.
“The NRHSN has more than 10,000 members studying medicine, nursing and allied health and is a valuable lens for policy makers into what matters for Australia’s future health workforce,” he said.