More than 90 per cent of Victoria’s psychiatrists currently work in metropolitan Melbourne, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. It’s well established that while many junior doctors want to work and train rurally, in some specialities, the opportunities or supports to do this simply aren’t there (yet).
The first Regional Training Hubs were funded in 2017 to facilitate the development of medical speciality training in rural areas. A number of Regional Training Hubs, regional health services and Australian medical colleges have made significant progress towards this goal over the past five years.
There have been rural end-to-end psychiatry training programs established in the north-east and north-west regions of Victoria, as well as a successful pilot of a dedicated rural paediatric stream (the latter the result of almost two decades of campaigning!). With these wins, lay the opportunity to bring our collective knowledge together to explore how new pathways could be developed – in more regions and expanded to other specialties.
As Deputy Director of the North West Victorian Regional Training Hub, and having helped develop an end-to-end rural training pathway in my own workplace at Mildura Base Public Hospital, I felt that bringing together key stakeholders from across our health services and colleges – those involved in medical training at all levels – was critical. We needed to share our successes, challenges and lessons learned.
The result was the inaugural ‘Reinvigorating the Rural Medical Workforce: Rural Training Pathways Congress’, held in Mildura on December 9 last year and hosted by the Monash Regional Training Hubs and Monash Rural Health Mildura. The event offered two streams: one for roundtable discussions around training delivery, the other for future rural doctors to explore the career and lifestyle opportunities in the region.
Recurring themes from newly established end-to-end programs spoke to building networks and committing to the local community, building support for trainees, nurturing your ambassadors and forging strong linkages with other rural and metropolitan-based services. Hearing from those who have been in our footsteps and knowing where to concentrate our efforts was invaluable.
This congress, held in a rural community and with the contributions of rural health service providers, was an important step towards developing sustainable solutions for our health workforce – and enabling more doctors to live, work and train rurally. I hope we can continue the enthusiasm, energy and efforts with another congress in late 2023.