16th National Rural Health Conference Wrap Up

31 August 2022

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Health Workforce Queensland attended the National Rural Health Alliance Conference held in Brisbane in August. It was a wonderful opportunity to gather with a broad range of rural health professionals, community leaders and rural health professional organisations to share and explore opportunities for improving health workforce and health care delivery in rural Australia. 

Sarah Venn, Executive Manager Workforce & Service Planning presented a poster on Collaboration and Commitment: keys to progressing innovative workforce strategies. Health Workforce Queensland in collaboration with the Allied Health Professions Office of Queensland, Queensland Health (AHPOQ), Southern Queensland Rural Health (SQRH) and the Murtupuni Centre for Rural and Remote Health (MCRRH), developed an abstract and poster for the National Rural Health Alliance Conference. It spoke to building sustainable training and support for the allied health workforce across public and primary care service providers in two rural/remote regions in Western Queensland as a workforce development and sustainability strategy. A key learning is that cooperation between service providers, funders and education providers is challenging to sustain but a key enabler of workforce support and development strategies in regions characterised by organisations with small allied health teams.

Meredith Connor, Team Leader Future Workforce, and David Wellman, Senior Data Analyst, presented on GROW Rural: evaluation of an innovative inter-disciplinary rural immersion program. An important quantitative finding from the longitudinal evaluation was how many students from GROW Rural have gone on to work rurally. There were 32 health students in the first GROW Rural cohort conducted from 2017-2019. Half were medical students, nine allied health and seven nursing/midwifery students. Students were drawn from seven different Queensland universities and 50 percent described themselves as having a rural background. The ultimate measure of the impact of the program is the number who go on to work in rural locations. As of June 2022, 25 had completed their studies and were working as health practitioners, one of them overseas, and seven were yet to complete their course. Of the 24 practitioners working in Australia, 16 (66.7%) were working in rural locations, as denoted by Modified Monash Model categories 2 – 7. This represented 50 percent of the medical practitioners, 83 percent of the nurses/midwives and 71 percent of the allied health practitioners. These results strongly supported the positive impact of the GROW Rural program on building a rural health workforce. Aside from further interesting findings from this report, the presentation was quite humorous with Meredith and Dave getting a number of laughs.

We were also at the conference representing the national Health Workforce Scholarship Program with a trade booth on behalf of all Rural Workforce Agencies and the team enjoyed being among the delegates.