Research training for rural and regional allied health professionals: An evaluation study

Dr Olivia King1, Dr Owen Howlett4,5, Dr Renee Clapham6,8,9, Mr Drew Aras7, Professor Vin Versace8, Associate Professor Anna Wong Shee8,9

1Barwon Health, Geelong, Australia, 2South West Healthcare, Warrnambool, Australia, 3Monash Centre for Scholarship in Health Education, Clayton, Australia, 4Bendigo Health Service, Bendigo, Australia, 5La Trobe University Rural Health School, Bendigo, Australia, 6St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia, 7Western Alliance, Geelong, Australia, 8Deakin Rural Health, Warrnambool, Australia, 9Ballarat Health Services, Ballarat, Australia

Rural and regional areas need health service-led research that generates relevant translatable findings. Rural and regional health services have less access to research infrastructure and funding than their metropolitan counterparts, and therefore have comparatively less capacity to lead and participate in research.

To address an identified gap, a research training program for rural and regionally-based allied health professionals (AHPs) was implemented. Training consisted of two face-to-face workshops held six weeks apart, with research mentoring between workshops to support novice AHP researchers develop a research protocol.

The mixed method evaluation included three and 12-month post-training interviews. Through the interviews, we sought to understand whether the training and/or other factors influenced individual AHPs’ research capacity development and research progress, and to determine the training outcomes at the two time points.

Sixteen semi-structured interviews were conducted with 11 AHPs, with 5 AHPs participating at both time points. Through thematic analysis, we identified three key themes: 1) valued learnings or new skills gleaned from the training; 2) outcomes of the training (expected and unexpected); and 3) factors influencing the progression of AHP-led health research (i.e., barriers and facilitators).

Participants appreciated the practical nature of the research training and gained fundamental research skills, networks, and the impetus to commence a research project. Factors that influenced participants’ progress included organizational factors (e.g., manager support), time, team-based approaches, and support from experienced researchers.

The findings of our evaluation have informed the development of a broader program of research capacity and capability building in rural and regional Victoria.


Olivia King is an Allied Health Research and Translation Co-Lead at Barwon Health and South West Healthcare (with Dr Rosalie Boyce). She also holds an Adjunct Research Associate position with the Monash Centre for Scholarship in Health Education (MCSHE). She is a qualified podiatrist and credentialled diabetes educator. She completed her PhD in 2018, which explored the role boundaries and scopes of practice in diabetes education, a postprofessional area of clinical practice. She is passionate about developing research capacity in the health sector. She has primarily undertaken qualitative research and her research interests include, interprofessional role boundaries, sociology of the professions and health professions education.

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