Ms  Rachael Cooper2, Dr Cath Cosgrave1,

1University Of Melbourne  – Department of Rural Health , Wangaratta , Australia, 2East Grampians Health Service, Ararat, Australia


Introduction:  A major & ongoing challenge facing rural & remote public health services is attracting & retaining Allied Health Professionals (AHP). This project builds on research findings conducted by Dr Cosgrave in an earlier-study investigating turnover-intention of early-career community mental health professionals working in rural NSW. The study found that social/personal factors were a key influence on retention, in particular, individuals’ sense of belongingness to community and place.   From this study, Dr Cosgrave developed a whole-of-person (WoP) retention model with specific interventions in the domains of workplace, career & social/personal.

Objectives: The University of Melbourne is currently working in partnership with East Grampians Health Service (EGHS)- small rural Victorian public hospital- to develop & trial a retention framework for early-career AHP & nursing professionals and all new health staff who are newcomers to the town of Ararat.

Method: A participatory action research method is being used. EGHS has a co-funded project worker (Ms Cooper). The research being conducted involves Dr Cosgrave regularly interviewing eligible staff, as well as key informants from EGHS & the local Ararat community to identify recruitment & retention issues. Dr Cosgrave & Ms Cooper are using this data & the WoP retention framework to develop & trial an evidenced-based context-specific retention model.

Results: The presentation will present the key findings from the research data & the WoP model developed & being trialled. This presentation will also discuss the challenges & opportunities  EGHS are experiencing leading a complex change process & wanting the outcomes to be sustainable.


Ms Cooper is an Accredited Practising Dietitian who has worked in rural health for 17 years. She moved to Ararat from Melbourne after graduating and has a good understanding of the difficulties new staff have settling into rural life and working in sole allied health positions. Rachael commenced as project worker for the Whole-of-person retention project in October 2017 with the aim of contributing to solutions that increase retention of allied health staff in her local area and therefore providing sustainable and quality health services for the community.

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