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The rural allied health workforce study (RAHWS): background, rationale and questionnaire development

Submitted: 3 December 2008
Published: 21 December 2008

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Author(s) : Keane S, Smith TN, Lincoln M, Wagner SR, Lowe SE.

Sheila KeaneTony SmithMichelle LincolnScott Wagner

Citation: Keane S, Smith TN, Lincoln M, Wagner SR, Lowe SE.  The rural allied health workforce study (RAHWS): background, rationale and questionnaire development. Rural and Remote Health (Internet) 2008; 8: 1132. Available: (Accessed 17 October 2017)


The allied health professions form approximately 18% of the health workforce in Australia and are well placed to contribute to future multidisciplinary models of health care. There are many reports describing the health workforce in Australia for the medical and nursing professions but there is very little information available about the nature of the allied health workforce. Recent studies have highlighted the need for more current and detailed information about the rural allied health workforce to inform future workforce planning. National health policy reform requires that new healthcare models take into account future workforce requirements, the distribution and work contexts of existing practitioners, training needs, workforce roles and scope of practice. The absence of accurate data profiling the existing rural allied health workforce makes this impossible. The Rural Allied Health Workforce Study (RAHWS) aims to use a cross-sectional survey instrument with high validity to provide a large scale but detailed profile of the allied health workforce in regional, rural and remote Australia. The RAHWS survey instrument used in this study is the result of a comprehensive consultation with clinicians, academics and managers. The RAHWS survey instrument has been designed to provide uniform data across a wide range of healthcare settings. Good concurrent and face validity have been demonstrated and its design allows for data analysis using a wide range of variables. Cross-correlation of responses can answer a number of research questions in relation to rural recruitment and retention, professional education and service delivery models. This valid and feasible instrument will be used to explore the rural allied health workforce by implementing the RAHWS survey in rural regions on a state-by-state basis in Australia during 2009 and 2010.

Key words: allied health personnel, health manpower, health workforce, recruitment and retention, rural health services.

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