Annual Conference

TheMHS 2014 S047: Workforce Development

By August 28, 2014 No Comments

Attracting Allied Health practitioners to work in rural mental health services: An evidence informed approach.

Keith Sutton, Kent Patrick, Darryl Mayberry

Keith Sutton discussed an intervention developed in attempt to facilitate students studying in Melbourne to access employment in Gippsland, Victoria. Keith discussed the very important topic of rural employment and highlighted how the current body of literature provides limited insight into what works in attracting people to seek employment in rural settings. Current evidence does propose, however, that people from rural backgrounds or those with partners from rural areas are more likely to find employment in rural areas.

This longitudinal research project worked with the Gippsland Mental Health Vacation School which is an optional, non-accredited program that runs during semester break and is open to 3rd and 4rth year undergraduate and postgraduate pre-registered allied health and nursing students. The program runs for five days and provides plenary sessions and site visits. Research findings demonstrate that this short-term intervention positively impacts students thinking in regards to practicing in rural areas and highlighted a number of work choice factors that influence a persons’ decision to work in a rural setting. These include pragmatic issues around income, relationships, changes in personal circumstances, residential location, familiarity and professional career development in relation to a focus on consolidating experiences and skills.

Keith described how the vacation school influenced decision making of 13 people out of the 17 people involved in the study and those who experienced attitude changes stated that it allowed them to see the breadth of options beyond their limited placements, and develop an interest in practicing rurally. Interestingly however, many students didn’t pursue this interest. Methods for maintaining contact with students and developing a blended model of delivery was discussed, along with the need for normative data regarding student’s attitudes to mental health and working in a rural location. What appears to remain a significant barrier is the burden of accommodation, living expenses and the question of how these conditions can be improved to increase workforce numbers in rural areas.

These findings suggest that this brief training and intervention may contribute to addressing the shortage of allied health practitioners in rural and remote areas. The more significant factor appears to be the lack of accommodation and other supports in rural areas that appear to act as a deterrent for those considering rural employment.  

You can read the abstract for this talk here.