Australian Health Review Australian Health Review Society
Journal of the Australian Healthcare & Hospitals Association
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Why did they leave and what can they tell us? Allied health professionals leaving rural settings

Kevin O’Toole A D , Adrian Schoo B and Andrea Hernan C

A International and Political Studies, Deakin University, PO Box 423, Warrnambool, VIC 3280, Australia.

B Rural Health School, Faculty of Health Science, La Trobe University, PO Box 199, Bendigo, VIC 3552, Australia.

C Greater Green Triangle University, Department of Rural Health, Deakin and Flinders Universities, PO Box 423, Warrnambool, VIC 3280, Australia.

D Corresponding author. Email: otoole@deakin.edu.au

Australian Health Review 34(1) 66-72 https://doi.org/10.1071/AH09711
Submitted: 21 October 2008  Accepted: 8 June 2009   Published: 25 March 2010

Abstract

The aim of this paper is to explore the lack of retention of allied health professionals in rural areas in Victoria, Australia. A structured telephone interview was used to elicit responses from 32 allied health professionals from south-west, central-west and north-east Victoria about their working experiences and reasons for resignation. The data revealed that work experiences in rural areas can be summarised within three domains: organisational, professional and personal/community. Under the organisational domain the participants were mainly focussed on the way in which their work arrangements require them to be both more generalist in their approach to day-to-day work, and more expansive in shouldering management style functions in the workplace. Under the professional domain there were three major issues; clinical, career and education/training. The personal/community domain focussed on issues to do with their affinity for their workplace as well as their location in a rural place. The attempts by government to address some of the leading factors for retention of allied health professionals are perhaps too narrowly focussed on the public sector and could encompass a wider approach.

What is known about the topic? Although recruitment and retention of allied health professionals in rural areas is widely discussed, the professionals have not been interviewed about their experiences once they have left rural employment.

What does this paper add? This paper provides detailed insights into the reasons why allied health professionals leave their positions in rural areas and the positive and negative aspects of living and working in a rural area. The results of this study contribute to the development of better policy models for recruitment and retention of allied health professionals in rural areas.

What are the implications for practitioners? The factors that influence whether allied health professionals stay or leave rural areas is of concern for health policy makers at state and federal levels. This paper provides information for the extension and development of programs to attenuate rural leakage of professionals.


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