GROWing Rural Workforce Solutions in North Queensland

29 August 2022

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In 2017, Health Workforce Queensland, established GROW Rural as a longitudinal rural immersion program for first year medical, nursing, midwifery and allied health students studying in Queensland.

GROW Rural presents a unique experience for students to develop familiarity and a deeper understanding of the potential of a professional and personal life they could have working in rural Queensland. By cultivating positive relational interactions with the health workforce community and the broader community the GROW Rural program encourages health students to return to rural communities for their clinical placements and to consider rural practice as a future career opportunity.

Each GROW Rural application round selects 25-30 students to form an interdisciplinary cohort which comes together annually for three consecutive years to be part of, and learn from, specific rural communities. GROW Rural runs separate cohorts in the following regions:

  • Central Queensland which visits the communities of Woorabinda, Moura and Theodore

  • South West Queensland where we have partnered with Southern Queensland Rural Health to take in Roma, St George, Cunnamulla and Charleville

  • North Queensland where we have partnered with Northern Queensland PHN to visit Atherton, Ravenshoe, Herberton and Mareeba.

Underpinning the ethos of GROW Rural is fostering a team culture reflective of the team-based approach and collaborative practice which defines rural health care. The sense of community generated within the student group over the three-year program is enhanced by scenario-based skill sessions with local health professionals, ongoing interactions with GROW Rural communities through involvement in community-led events and enjoying rural hospitality as billets. GROW Rural also places great importance on the value of cultural awareness and safety by working alongside First Nations peoples to connect students with Indigenous lands, history and culture. 

Integral to the success of GROW Rural is the collaborative approach taken by Health Workforce Queensland when working with participating communities, service providers and health professionals to take the lead on program development and facilitation. Importantly, GROW Rural’s whole of community approach encourages and gives community members, organisations and service providers the agency to participate in growing their region’s future workforce.

GROW Rural North Queensland 

Early in 2022 the GROW Rural program underwent its own growth phase with the development of a third GROW Rural, in partnership with Northern Queensland PHN, to be launched in North Queensland in September 2022. 

Inspired by the program’s success and the high proportion (66.7%) of 2017-2019 GROW Rural Central Queensland graduates currently in the workforce who are employed rurally, a more strategic model of GROW Rural will now be employed to better support the growth and retention of a rural health workforce. To pilot GROW Rural as a workforce solution, GROW Rural North Queensland (NQ) will work collaboratively with the region’s practices, health services and targeted communities to grow, over the course of the program, direct pathways into identified employment opportunities for graduated GROW Rural NQ students. 

Drawing on Health Workforce Queensland’s Health Workforce Needs Assessment, to identify high priority locations, professions and workforce requirements, the North Queensland communities of Atherton, Ravenshoe, Herberton and Mareeba were selected as the communities that would most benefit from growing a future workforce through GROW Rural NQ.

By taking a whole of agency approach to deliver GROW Rural NQ, Health Workforce Queensland teams will act as the interface between program partners, North Queensland communities, practices and health service providers to collectively develop a structured and supported pathway to prepare GROW Rural NQ students for employment in North Queensland primary health care settings. To assist the region retain incoming post-graduates as part of their workforce, support will be provided to the practices as employers and to GROW Rural NQ post-graduates as employees including the provision of ongoing support for professional development through Health Workforce Queensland’s Scholarship Program.

The level of interest from university health students to be part of the GROW Rural NQ program was reflected in Health Workforce Queensland receiving nearly 100 applications for the 25 places on offer. Local North Queensland health professionals and community representatives participated as GROW Rural interview panelists resulting in a total of 27 students being accepted onto the program. 

With two site visits and the application round completed in readiness for the first NQ weekend event taking place from 9-11 September 2022 there is a growing sense of anticipation at what GROW Rural and North Queensland can achieve together. 

​Images: Breakdown of the 27 GROW Rural NQ 2022-2024 students.