Responding to rural allied health workforce challenges in the public health system: Evaluation of the Allied Health Rural Generalist Pathway pilot in western New South Wales

Ellen McMaster, Tegan Reid, Emily Farquhar, Duncan McMaster, David Buckley, Elyce Green

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

Objective

The Allied Health Rural Generalist Pathway pilot aimed to improve consistent access to physiotherapy services in rural communities using the “grow own” workforce strategy and existing resources.

Design

A summative evaluation of the quality improvement project used to implement the Allied Health Rural Generalist Pathway was completed. A mixed method design was used and included focus groups and a framework analysis.

Participants

The temporary redesign of specific workforce resources created “development” positions. A shared same-discipline supervisor resource supported five early-career physiotherapists, the participants.

Setting

The project was undertaken in rural New South Wales in the public health system.

Main outcome measures

The main outcome measures included a number of chronically vacant physiotherapy positions and stakeholder satisfaction.

Results

Targeted vacancies were filled, services sustained with minimal service gaps and mean retention rate of 2.9 years. A statistically significant increase in service activity to patients in rural locations occurred as a result of the intervention (R-squared 29%, P < .05). Four out of five early career physiotherapists fulfilled terms of their contract and secured senior positions within the region. Whilst participants developed professionally, they did not complete the tertiary education component.

Conclusions

The Allied Health Rural Generalist multi-factorial approach supported recruitment, retention and capacity building within the targeted discipline of the allied health workforce. Patient need was met. The rural pipeline capacity was developed. The pathway was complementary of existing NSW Health systems. Systemic change is needed to overcome inefficiencies experienced during implementation and to ensure sustainability. Further research to develop discipline-specific clinical training guidance through the stages of a rural allied health professionals’ career may be helpful.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)701-720
Number of pages20
JournalAustralian Journal of Rural Health
Volume29
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 20 Oct 2021

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