GROWing a rural health workforce solution

  • GROW Rural South West Queensland students with National Rural Health Commissioner, Professor Ruth Stewart, CEO of South West Hospital and Health Service (SWHHS), Dr Anthony Brown, Rohan Ballon, Senior Community Nutritionist at SWHHS, Leanne Raatz, Director of Nursing at Roma Hospital and Sally Graham, Clinical Nurse facilitator at Roma Hospital in October 2023.
    GROW Rural South West Queensland students with National Rural Health Commissioner, Professor Ruth Stewart, CEO of South West Hospital and Health Service (SWHHS), Dr Anthony Brown, Rohan Ballon, Senior Community Nutritionist at SWHHS, Leanne Raatz, Director of Nursing at Roma Hospital and Sally Graham, Clinical Nurse facilitator at Roma Hospital in October 2023.
  • Sahanna Mayooran, Ava Allen and Alfred Tran from GROW Rural South West Queensland in October 2023.
    Sahanna Mayooran, Ava Allen and Alfred Tran from GROW Rural South West Queensland in October 2023.
  • Jasmine Teoh, Liz Schultz, Isabella Beattie and Amelia Bofinger from GROW Rural Central Queensland in July 2023, on Country at Flagstaff Hill.
    Jasmine Teoh, Liz Schultz, Isabella Beattie and Amelia Bofinger from GROW Rural Central Queensland in July 2023, on Country at Flagstaff Hill.
By
Corina Adams
Marketing & Communications Officer,
Health Workforce Queensland
Issue
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Health Workforce Queensland’s (HWQ) GROW Rural program commenced in 2017 as a rural immersion program for first to third year health students. Each cohort of 20-30 students, from a range of health disciplines, meet annually for three consecutive years, to be part of and learn from rural communities. The multidisciplinary group develop strong connections and gain an awareness of how a team-based approach and collaborative practice defines rural health care.

The program began in Central Queensland (CQ) and soon expanded to include South West Queensland (SWQ) and North Queensland (NQ), with participants from medical, nursing, midwifery, occupational therapy, speech pathology, physiotherapy, nutrition, dietetics, psychology, paramedicine, social work, dentistry, optometry and pharmacy disciplines. As a workforce solution, GROW Rural creates supported pathways for students from first year until their first job as new graduates in a GROW Rural community or region.

In addition to annual weekend events, key elements of the expanded GROW Rural model include students undertaking university clinical placements in the GROW Rural communities; longitudinal support to prepare students for local employment through ongoing career advice, career preparation and case management; access to peak clinical bodies to support students rural career journey; support as a new graduate into their first job as a clinician in the region; and the engagement of a Health Workforce Connector. 

Because GROW Rural is a community-led program it actively involves local communities, businesses and health services to be part of their own workforce solution by voluntarily becoming involved in the weekend events as facilitators, speakers, billets and community contacts.

Students who have participated in the GROW Rural program have a higher interest in rural practice than prior to participating in the program. Students utilise connections made to undergo university placements within the communities, like Johanna Joyce, UQ medical student, who returned to Woorabinda earlier this year. Students also become keen ambassadors for future GROW Rural events, such as Anna Forrest, whose enthusiasm for GROW Rural encouraged students to apply to be part of the new 2023 cohort.

“The [GROW Rural] program has really made me very excited to start my rural position and has cemented my decision to move out west.”  -- GROW Rural SWQ 2020-2022 Student  

The employment of a Health Workforce Connector by HWQ was a turning point in the transition of the program. Based within the GROW Rural NQ region, the Health Workforce Connector is employed to integrate community need, primary health care settings and stakeholders with the GROW Rural program. The Connector provides on the ground support, local knowledge and assists with relationship building for practices to best prepare for the commencement and sustainability of GROW Rural students as new graduates.

HWQ is a not for profit, Rural Workforce Agency for primary health workforce in Queensland, and focuses on ensuring remote, rural, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island communities have access to highly skilled health professionals, now and into the future. GROW Rural is a program designed to grow our future rural health care professionals as a workforce solution.

HWQ acknowledges and welcomes funding support provided by the Australian Government Department of Industry, Science and Resources, Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care, Northern Queensland PHN, Western Queensland PHN and Southern Queensland Rural Health.

GROW Rural would not be possible without commitment from rural communities, businesses and health professionals who volunteer their time and support to make GROW Rural part of their future workforce.

For more information visit - https://www.healthworkforce.com.au/health-students/grow-rural.

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