Evaluation of the Allied Health Rural Generalist Education Program 2016 – 2019

Associate Professor Ruth Barker1, Dr Jennifer Chamberlain-Salaun1, Professor Robyn Nash2, Dr Helena Harrison1, Associate Professor  Claire Palermo3, Professor Jenny Sim3, Associate Professor Natalie Ciccone4, Dr Desley Harvey5, Ms Ilsa Nielsen6, Associate Professor Sue Devine1

1James Cook University, Cairns, Australia, 2Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia, 3Monash University, Melbourne, Australia, 4Edith Cowan University, Perth, Australia, 5Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Service, Cairns, Australia, 6Allied Health Professions’ Office of Queensland, Cairns, Australia

We evaluated the Allied Health Rural Generalist Education Program between 2016 and 2019. This two-level program known as the RGP, consists of a Level 1 entry-level pathway program and a Level 2 Graduate Diploma in Rural Generalist Practice.

We evaluated the RGP using a convergent mixed methodology in two overlapping stages. Firstly, we evaluated the quality and reach of the program with 91 participants from across Australia who enrolled in all, or part of, the RGP. We collected enrolment and education evaluation data from all participants. Secondly, we evaluated the benefits of the RGP  across 10 study sites across rural and remote Australia with seven of the allied health professions: dietetics; occupational therapy; pharmacy; physiotherapy; podiatry; radiography; speech pathology. We collected data from 50 participants – RGP participants, supervisors and managers – via online surveys and semi-structured interviews. We analysed quantitative data descriptively, qualitative data thematically and \integrated findings to answer our evaluation questions.

Over the three-year evaluation period, there were 65 enrolments in the Level 1 and 25 in the Level 2 from across Australia. Overall, the RGP was viewed as an effective education program with benefits extending to RGP participants, employing organisations and consumers.

Recommended improvements included refining administrative processes, bolstering support for RGP participants and supervisors within employing organisations, ensuring alignment between the RGP, clinical caseloads and service projects, and ensuring RGP benefits are sustained long-term. Our evaluation findings suggest that the RGP made a positive contribution towards a fit-for-purpose rural and remote allied health workforce.


Ilsa Nielsen is a Principal Workforce Officer in the Allied Health Professions’ Office of Queensland, Department of Health Queensland. This role is based in Cairns and supports workforce policy, planning and development for rural and remote allied health services in 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.

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