Tackling the rural medical workforce shortage is the task that has been taken on by the Western NSW Regional Training Hub since it was established last year.
The Western NSW Regional Training Hub directly supports the Integrated Rural Training Pipeline for Medicine (IRTP), an Australian Government initiative established in 2017. The Hub staff work with local health services to provide support and incentives for medical students to move through the pipeline, enabling students to continue rural training through university into postgraduate medical training, and then when working in rural Australia.
The Western NSW Regional Training Hub is managed by the University of Sydney School of Rural Health, through its medical campuses in Dubbo and Orange. The Hub has a number of initiatives underway to support trainee doctors with an interest in practising rurally.
Most recently, the Hub offered scholarships to attend the Rural Medicine Australia Conference held in Darwin, in October 2018. Scholarships were offered to a pool of GP registrars working in Western New South Wales who had previously demonstrated a commitment to rural practice outside of a regional centre and to medical graduates in their first and second postgraduate years who were on primary allocation to Dubbo and Orange.
“Applicants were asked what learning objectives they hoped to achieve, as well as providing supporting statements in regard to their plans to practice rurally”, Hub Director, Linda Cutler said. “They were also asked to describe how they believed attendance at the conference would relate to their development as a rural medical practitioner.”
“We selected six full scholarship recipients as well as supplementing the attendance of a seventh.”
After the conference, the scholarship recipients wrote a summary of the benefits they derived, as well as information they had gained which would influence their future practice.
“There were many highlights for me from this conference. From the first evening at the welcome reception, it was clear that this was going to be a great networking opportunity”, Dr Danielle Smith said.
“Meeting so many like-minded, rurally-focused doctors that are doing great things is an inspiration and keeps my mind open to how wide the scope can potentially be.”
Fellow attendee, GP registrar Caroline Ivey, heartily agreed and found the conference a rewarding experience.
“It has truly changed my outlook on medical career pathways, future medical career options and without a doubt will have improved my clinical skills and holistic management of my patients,”
“I feel better connected to medical support networks and have an improved understanding of how various organisations can support me as rural GP. I have also made new friendships and connections with other rural doctors”, Caroline said.
Danielle said that one of her favourite talks of the conference was from Dr Jillann Farmer, the Medical Director of the United Nations.
Dr Rosie Neilson said the Conference made her consider how she could help bring more services back to rural communities.
“I often ponder what my role could be in reintroducing maternity care in Western New South Wales”, she said.
“I felt that the conference addressed how this type of service has been introduced in areas that share similar geographical and medical barriers.”
Initiatives like this one are just one of many opportunities being managed and run by Linda and the team of the Western NSW Regional Training Hub.
“We were thrilled with the result of the sponsorship. Every participant came away from the conference feeling they had experienced increased connection with rural medical practice and to have the support of the Hub has led to ongoing career pathway discussion”, Linda said.
The University of Sydney School of Rural Health (Dubbo/Orange) is a sponsor of the 15th National Rural Health Conference.