Building allied health workforce sustainability in remote communities

Dr Robyn Adams2, Ms Ilsa Nielsen1, Ms Sarah Venn2

1Queensland Health, Cairns, Australia, 2Health Workforce Queensland, Brisbane, Australia

Background: Health services in remote areas experience challenges with recruitment, particularly for experienced practitioners, and retention of allied health professionals. Developing an “own grown” workforce through a structured employment pathway is potentially beneficial but can be difficult to implement in health services with small workforce establishments.

Methods: Successive collaborative, multi-agency projects in two remote regions of Queensland have examined local capacity and challenges for allied health workforce and service sustainability.  Scoping has included workforce mapping, and individual and group consultation with service providers and commissioners.  A place-based, inter-agency strategy has progressed to implementation in one region.


Findings and learnings include:

  • collaboration that leverages the strengths and capabilities of health service providers, commissioners and education providers can optimise the outcomes from scarce resources in remote areas,
  • funding and service commissioning models need to integrate workforce development requirements for early career practitioners and supervisors to support recruitment, retention and workforce capabilities,
  • the allied health rural generalist pathway provides a useful structure for workforce and service development for primary care and public health services if supported by employment and funding models,
  • ongoing engagement and shared governance of inter-agency workforce strategies is critical to enable sustainability beyond an initial project phase.

Conclusion: Strategic leadership and investment in place-based solutions is required to address known modifiable risk factors for poor recruitment and retention outcomes in remote health services.  Key principles from these projects may be combined with local contextual factors to generate strategies in other regions.


Robyn has been a long term advocate for rural and regional allied health professionals. A past President of Services for Australian Rural and Remote Allied Health (SARRAH), Robyn has worked in public, private, aged care and academic sectors. Recent roles include working with colleagues to develop regional, inter-agency, collaborative rural allied health workforce strategies.

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