Mapping rural workforce outcomes from a longitudinal study of allied health graduates

Associate Professor Leanne Brown1, Associate Professor Tony Smith2, Dr Luke Wakely1, Mrs Rebecca  Wolfgang1, Mrs Alexandra Little1, Dr Julie Burrows1

1University of Newcastle Department of Rural Health, Tamworth, Australia, 2University of Newcastle Department of Rural Health, Taree, Australia

Background: The allied health workforce in Australia is unevenly distributed and under-represented in rural and remote areas. The University of Newcastle Department of Rural Health (UONDRH), which is funded under the Commonwealth’s Rural Health Multidisciplinary Training program, supports student placements in rural northern NSW. Students can participate in short-term placements of 2-8 weeks, up to full-year attachments in a range of rural locations. These rural immersion experiences, provide students with an opportunity to live and study in a multi-disciplinary environment, engage with the local community, and participate in interprofessional education. This longitudinal study aims to track the workforce outcomes of allied health students undertaking a rural immersion placement experience with the UONDRH.

Method: Allied health students, from medical radiation science, nutrition and dietetics, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, physiotherapy and speech pathology, undertaking one or more placements in a UONDRH sites were invited to participate. Students had the option of participating in one or more study components: (i) an end-of-placement survey; (ii) end of placement semi-structured interview and (iii) a follow-up survey at 1, 3 and 5-years post-graduation. Workforce outcome data has been summarised, with mapping of the work locations of graduates at 1, 3 and 5-years post-graduation.

Results: A total of 476 students who graduated between 2011-2017, consented to follow-up surveys. Graduates were surveyed at 1-year (n=253), 3-years (n=140) and 5-years (n=65) post-graduation and their workplace locations mapped. The proportion of graduates whose employment was based in a rural or remote location were 42% at 1-year, 37% at 3-years and 24% at 5-years.

Conclusion: Initial outcomes show good rural return with ongoing tracking to provide further insights into the contribution of the UONDRH program to the rural and remote allied health workforce in Australia.


Leanne Brown has worked as a rural academic for over 15 years, based at the University of Newcastle Department of Rural Health in Tamworth NSW.  She is an Advanced Accredited Practicing Dietitian with eight years experience in the metropolitan health sector before going rural. She is leading research into the allied health workforce in rural and remote Australia.

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