Can innovative rural clinical placements drive systemic change?

The Commonwealth Government recently acknowledged the dearth of allied health workforce in rural and remote Australia by funding University Departments of Rural Health (UDRH) an extra $2million a year to double allied health student placements in rural areas.

This UDRH project explored the challenges and opportunities of doubling student placements without compromising patient care and quality education. Clinicians, universities and professional organisations are being forced to challenge the old paradigms, redefine placement expectations and changing health needs of the community. With our ageing population, especially in rural Australia, comes more chronic disease, poorer quality of life and more disability. Students need to be adequately trained to work in these sectors.

The views of clinicians, Local Government, aged care facilities, Non- government organisations, Aboriginal Medical Services, schools, Local Health Districts and the Primary Health Network were sought by the UDRH to identify gaps in allied health services in our region. New allied health services were established in areas of need, using our student workforce.

This presentation will discuss how innovative placement models were developed as a result of increased funding. It will also discuss how these placements are being evaluated. Not only are some student competencies measured, but also community awareness and perceptions of allied health services. Will increasing community understanding of the roles of allied health professionals, through exposure to student services, result in allied health professionals becoming more valued, better funded and more integrated into multi-disciplinary primary care services in rural and remote Australia?

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