May, J.1, O’Connor, J.1, Poklar, S.1
1 Rural Support Service, Barossa Hills Fleurieu LHN, SA Health
There are many challenges in recruiting, training, developing and retaining allied health professionals (AHPs) in rural/remote areas of South Australia (SA). The Allied Health Rural Generalist Pathway (AHRGP) is a workforce initiative that supports the development of rural generalist specialist skills in early-career AHPs, to better meet the needs of consumers and improve workforce retention in rural areas. In 2019 SA Health introduced the AHRGP in regional LHNs for the first time.
A research partnership undertaken with a Flinders University PhD student will enable a formal evaluation of the effectiveness, appropriateness, suitability and success of the program, and an exploration of rural and remote allied health workforce challenges and opportunities that exist in SA. This evaluation will be completed in phases over the duration of the 1-3 year training pathway, with the first phase completed in December 2019.
The first evaluation phase explored the intentions and early experiences of the initial 13 AHRGP trainees, their line managers, clinical supervisors, profession leads and consumer representatives. It also describes program costs, SA rural AHP workforce statistics, participant demographics, and competence and confidence ratings of trainees and their supervisors and managers.
This research collaboration has required a process of ongoing navigation and action learning. It has resulted in outputs that are valuable to the future implementation of the AHRGP, and increases our understanding of SA-specific rural and remote AHP workforce challenges. We expect future evaluation phases will expand on these themes, with outputs able to inform future rural AHP workforce research and strategies.
Jodie May commenced in the role of project manager, Allied Health Rural Generalist Pathway with the Rural Support Service in March 2019. Jodie has worked in rural SA Health locations since 2004, including 14 years in clinical and senior Dietetics roles, and two years as a project manager supporting regional LHN quality and safety initiatives in the areas of malnutrition, falls and pressure injury. Jodie capitalises on her own lived experience of working as a new graduate in rural SA, and her experiences of working with other AHPs starting their career in rural practice, to support the regional LHN trainees enrolled in the pathway. In her role coordinating the implementation of the Allied Health Rural Generalist Pathway, Jodie found herself in the world of research while seeking data able to provide evidence of outcomes achieved for rural SA trainees.