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allied health insights

Allied Health Insights Vol. 1, No.21. Rural Allied Health

In this edition, we’re jumping off the beaten path for a gander at rural allied health, examining rural AHP workforce shortages, the Allied Health Rural Generalist Pathway, and AHP innovation made necessary by the COVID pandemic.

There are well-documented, enduring difficulties attracting and retaining healthcare workers including allied health professionals in Australian rural and remote areas, and we have seen a number of programs and initiatives by state and federal governments, peak bodies and institutions to attempt to remedy this—from funding allocations, to overseas recruitment blitzes, to direct trainee placements.

So why are we experiencing “endemic shortages” of AHPs in the bush? One study suggests that sufficient PD pathways and prospects for career advancement are central to attracting more allied health professionals to rural health settings; another reason may be a lack of effective support model, which is something that a formalised rural generalist pathway for AHPs could remedy.

The Allied Health Rural Generalist Pathway—in development since 2013 and whose pilot program concluded this year—aims to address some of the challenges associated with allied health workforce shortages that are particularly acute in rural and remote communities.

While the rural generalist definition is relatively well known for medical practitioners—and its “Swiss Army knife generalist mindset”—we’re still learning about what rural generalism is as it relates to allied health. Allied health rural generalists are ostensibly trained in clinical and non-clinical specialist skills and supported in a way that makes their skillsets more readily accessible to rural communities. It’s a strategic type of support for rural allied health professionals with a long-term view to resolving rural health workforce issues; earlier this year, Mt Isa-based physiotherapist Andric Lu became the first person in Australia to complete the Allied Health Rural Generalist Program, a university-based implementation of the pathway.

We’re delighted in this issue to speak with Chief Allied Health Officer for Queensland Liza-Jane McBride, and Ilsa Nielsen, who leads the Rural and Remote Portfolio as the principal workforce officer for the Allied Health Professions Office of Queensland. They discuss the Allied Health Rural Generalist Pathway’s development and rollout.

Also pivotal to the implementation of the Pathway has been the peak body Services for Australian Rural and Remote Allied Health (SARRAH). SARRAH CEO Cath Maloney joined us for a chat about giving a voice to rural allied health, and what that really means.

We hear from Anna Barwick, a rural pharmacist who created the first pharmacist-led telehealth service in Australia. Anna chats to us about how this innovation, made necessary during the pandemic, can further assist rural community health outcomes.

Useful Links

The (Rural) AHP Playlist

taking care

A Glimpse of Healthcare For Our Rural and Remote Communities | Taking Care Podcast

Pharmacist Hannah Mann, podiatrist Amy Nelson and optometrist Lauren Hutchinson talk about their work as rural and remote health practitioners, and some of the benefits and challenges faced by patients and practitioners in rural and remote areas of our country. A glimpse into the life of practitioners who work on the road, in the clinic and everywhere in between to deliver healthcare to some of our most vulnerable, and special, communities.

Listen Now

Rebecca Keeley, Rural Generalist Speech Pathologist | SARRAH Talking for Purpose Podcast

Speech Pathologist Rebecca Keeley is an Allied Health Rural Generalist (NT), an alumnus of SARRAH’s leadership program, and a recent recipient of a Sir John Monash scholarship. Rebecca talks about her rural origins as a launchpad for her career.

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private practice made perfect Cathy love

Insights from a Rural Allied Health Business Owner | Private Practice Made Perfect

Living and working in remote areas can appear daunting at first, but it’s stories like Anna Drum’s that give glowing insight into what it’s really like working in a rural space in the allied health sector. As a Myotherapist and the Founding Director of Capability Health, Anna opens up about working in Weipa – a small town in Queensland, Australia.

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AHP Press Dispatches

Interview with Dan Searle, Rural Physiotherapist

“Deputy National Rural Health Commissioner Faye McMillan sat down for an interview with rural physiotherapist, Dan Searle. In this interview we learn about what led Dan to become a physiotherapist, his unique experiences as a physiotherapist and rural allied health professional, and how he feels the COVID-19 pandemic has affected his work and the broader allied health community.”—Australian Government, Department of Health and Aged Care – News

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It’s time. Stop kicking the health reform can down the road

“…health experts have sent a strong message to the Federal Government that it cannot ignore the urgent need for structural and systemic change to address the fragmentation of health and social services…health reform should explore options for an allied health workforce strategy as integrating allied health with primary healthcare could make a big impact on reducing the burden of chronic diseases in society.

 Alison Barrett, Croakey Media

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