The evaluation of an online orientation to rural mental health practice in Australia

Tracy Robinson, Danny Hills, Brian Kelly

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6 Citations (Scopus)


There are many challenges associated with rural mental health practice. There are few education programmes that orientate nursing and allied health clinicians to rural practice. The authors developed and evaluated an online orientation programme for clinicians commencing work in mental health in rural New South Wales. The online programme focussed on the survival skills and support structures that may contribute to their retention in rural areas. The aim of this study was to develop and evaluate an online, interprofessional education programme for clinicians commencing work in rural mental health services in New South Wales, Australia. Twenty-eight participants, including nurses, psychologists, social workers and occupational therapists, completed a 24-week education programme (Introduction to Rural Mental Health Practice programme) that orientated clinicians to working in rural settings. The online programme included an orientation to online learning and clinical skills such as risk assessment, therapeutic communication and de-escalation skills applied in rural settings. Twenty-four participants provided pre- and post-evaluation responses that were matched and analysed using paired t-tests to identify any significant differences in mean scores across the domains of interest. Fifty per cent (n= 13) of participants had a background in nursing and 49% were allied health clinicians (psychologists, social workers and occupational therapists). Statistically significant improvements (P < 0.05) were detected in participant confidence in responding to common mental health problems, knowledge about the role of different services in rural mental health care, perceived safety of work and perceived self-efficacy in dealing with challenging or aggressive behaviours. The Introduction to Rural Mental Health Practice programme was successful in orienting clinicians to rural mental health but the small sample size highlights the need to evaluate the programme with a larger cohort of rural clinicians. The attrition at the early stages of the study highlights significant challenges in the retention of rural clinicians in online education programmes. Factors that promoted participation and retention included the provision of study leave and orientation to the online environment
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)629–636
JournalJournal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 13 Mar 2011
Externally publishedYes

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