Retention in rural speech and language therapy: The impact of rural tertiary education in Australia

Michelle Smith-Tamaray, Sarah Verdon, Laura Hoffman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: Recruitment and retention of skilled health workers into rural areas is a major challenge to achieving equity in health between rural and urban populations.
OBJECTIVE: This study explored the impact of rurally-based tertiary education in promoting the recruitment and retention of speech and language therapists (SLTs) in non-metropolitan areas and intention to remain in the profession.
METHODS: Participants in this cohort study were 133 graduates from a rurally-based speech and language therapy course in Australia who completed the course between 1998 and 2018. Data were collected via an online survey. Data were analysed using inferential statistics, ArcGIS mapping software and content analysis in NVivo12.
RESULTS: 65.0% of the graduates practiced in rural or remote areas with just 21.1% practicing in major cities. Most participants’ ideal work location was in a rural area. Benefits of rural practice included seeing a mixed caseload, living near family, work/life balance and loving their location. Challenges of rural practice included limited opportunities for specialist caseloads and career progression. In total, 93.2% of the rural graduates intended to remain in the speech and language therapy profession for the next 5 years.
CONCLUSIONS: This study indicates that SLTs who are trained in rural areas with a focus on servicing rural populations are highly likely to enter and remain in rural practice, consistent with the rural pipeline model.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)111-124
Number of pages14
JournalAdvances in Communication and Swallowing
Issue number2
Early online date2021
Publication statusPublished - 15 Feb 2022


Dive into the research topics of 'Retention in rural speech and language therapy: The impact of rural tertiary education in Australia'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this