Informing rural practice decision-making of urban trained allied health and nursing students

Keith Sutton, Susan Waller, Karin Fisher, Tony Smith

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


Access to quality heath care providers continues to be challenging in rural and remote regions of Australia. The shortage of medical practitioners has been the principal focus of research and policy initiatives. There is, however, limited understanding of how nursing and allied health students and graduates choose locations to practice. This qualitative study, provides additional information about rural practice decision making process of urban trained allied health and nursing students and graduates.

The research team was a collaboration across three University Departments of Rural Health in [names of States and Territories withheld for blind review]. A review of the last 10 years of Australian literature on nursing and allied health rural and remote recruitment informed the development of semi-structured interviews. Three groups of participants (n=85), students (n=36), graduates (n=34) and industry stakeholders (n=15) were interviewed. The student and graduate interviews focussed on perceptions of rural and remote, the impact of clinical experiences and the perceived advantages and challenges of working in a rural or remote location. Stakeholder interviews explored factors that impact on recruitment including policies and strategies that support or mitigate this process.

Urban-based allied health and nursing students begin to think about employment from the middle years of their studies. Location decision making within these professional groups is influenced by a complex interplay of many influencing elements, non-professional and professional. For urban trained allied health and nursing students and graduates, connectedness to people, place and community, seeing a career pathway and having an opportunity to experience living and working in a rural or remote area are central to their decision making. However, all participant groups commented on how the generally negative portrayal of rural and remote practice mitigates against relocating to non-metropolitan areas.

Key recommendations arose from the findings and will be shared in this presentation to inform future decision making and recruitment strategies for rural and remote practice. These included, among others:
• Marketing rural and remote practice from a positive perspective, particularly the professional benefits;
• Providing financial and other support to nursing and allied health professionals to relocate from metropolitan locations;
• Developing clearer and professionally rewarding career development opportunities and pathways; and
• Increasing the emphasis on innovative, extended scope of practice roles.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 23 Apr 2017
EventNational Rural Health Conference 2017 - Cairns, Australia
Duration: 26 Apr 201729 Apr 2017
Conference number: 14th


ConferenceNational Rural Health Conference 2017
Internet address

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