Five-year trial of Allied Health Rural Generalist Training Positions in Queensland: Outcomes and learnings

Ms Ilsa Nielsen1, Ms Vanessa Burge2

1Allied Health Professions’ Office of Queensland, Queensland Health, Cairns, Australia, 2Cunningham Centre, Darling Downs Hospital and Health Service, Toowoomba, Australia

Introduction: Queensland Health has been developing and trialling Allied Health Rural Generalist (AHRG) Training Positions since 2013.  This integrated workforce, education and service development strategy aims to build capacity and sustainability of health services in rural and remote communities.

Methods/strategy: In total, twenty-two supernumerary training positions were funded during the trial period. Host sites operationally managed the rural generalist trainees and implemented training, service development and reporting activities.  Evaluation included collation of workforce and service development outcomes reported by the host sites, trainee employment tracking using HR data systems, and a qualitative research project of stakeholder experiences and feedback.

Outcomes: Thirty-five early career trainees were employed in the one or two-year supernumerary training roles during the trial.  Training positions were spread across eight professions and 10 hospital and health services.  Recruitment was successful for 95% (35/37) advertised roles and retention in the fixed term positions was 91%.

The trial tested and confirmed the employment construct of AHRG Training Positions which includes a:

  • minimum of 0.1FTE allocated development time;
  • formal and funded development plan, including a university-delivered education program from 2017;
  • profession-specific supervisor, that is co-located for graduates;
  • contribution to a local service development activity that develops or expands use of rural generalist service delivery strategies.

Barriers and challenges to implementation included:

  • turnover and vacancies in key senior roles (local supervisor/manager);
  • skills and capacity of the team to manage service development activities and to provide work-based training for trainees;
  • competing commitments of senior team members and trainees impacting the ‘protection’ of allocated development time.

Conclusion: The five-year trial of AHRG Training Positions produced evaluation outcomes and stakeholder support to progress the initiative to broader implementation. Further work is required to address the barriers identified in the trial and to expand and embed training positions in workforce structures.


Ilsa Nielsen is currently employed as a Principal Workforce Officer in the Allied Health Professions’ Office of Queensland, Department of Health, Queensland Government.  This role is based in Cairns in far northern Queensland and supports workforce policy, planning and development for rural and remote allied health services across Queensland Health.  Ilsa is a physiotherapist and has post-graduate qualifications in public health, education, and health economics and policy.  Her former appointments include academic and clinical physiotherapy positions in metropolitan and regional Queensland.

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