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

Bringing them home: a Gippsland mental health workforce recruitment strategy

Keith Sutton A C , Darryl Maybery A and Terry Moore B

A Department of Rural and Indigenous Health, Monash University, PO Box 973, Moe, Vic. 3825, Australia. Email:

B University of Tasmania, Riawunna, Locked Bag 1344, Launceston, Tas. 7250, Australia. Email:

C Corresponding author. Email:

Australian Health Review 36(1) 79-82
Submitted: 2 February 2011  Accepted: 14 July 2011   Published: 24 February 2012


This paper reports on preliminary findings of a novel program piloted in 2010 to address rural mental health workforce shortages. The program involved exposing allied health and nursing students from rural backgrounds studying in Melbourne to mental health service employment opportunities in Gippsland. A longitudinal study is underway to evaluate the effect and outcomes of the program and includes surveying participants’ interest in rural mental health work through an online questionnaire immediately prior to and following the program; and surveying career decisions at 6 months and yearly intervals. Paired sample t-tests were used to analyse participants’ level of interest in rural work (pre-event 4.67 (1.50); post-event 5.93 (0.96); P = 0.001), career in a rural setting (pre-event 4.67 (1.63); post-event 5.67 (1.23); P = 0.006), mental health work (pre-event 4.73 (1.39); post-event 6.07 (0.80); P < 0.000) and rural mental health career (pre-event 4.73 (1.33); post-event 5.80 (1.21); P = 0.002). These findings indicate a significant increase from pre- to post-event and are supported by strong effect sizes suggesting that the program had a significant effect on participant interest in rural mental health work. Longer-term evaluation will determine whether the program influences participant career decisions and thereby addressing mental health workforce shortages in Gippsland.

What is known about the topic? Despite the ongoing challenges that regional and rural mental health services face recruiting and retaining mental health professionals, there is a lack of evidence available to inform rural mental health workforce recruitment strategies.

What does this paper add? This paper describes a novel recruitment initiative and preliminary data from a longitudinal evaluation program. The initiative targets allied health and nursing students with rural backgrounds who are studying at a large urban centre (Melbourne).

What are the implications for practitioners? This study provides a potentially successful recruiting tool for mental health sector policy-makers and managers which will be evaluated over the long-term.

Additional keywords: career choice, health professions, rural, students.


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