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Original Research

Retention policies for allied health professionals in rural areas: a survey of private practitioners

Submitted: 10 October 2009
Revised: 16 February 2010
Published: 3 May 2010

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Author(s) : O'Toole K, Schoo AM.

Adrian Schoo

Citation: O'Toole K, Schoo AM.  Retention policies for allied health professionals in rural areas: a survey of private practitioners. Rural and Remote Health (Internet) 2010; 10: 1331. Available: http://www.rrh.org.au/articles/subviewnew.asp?ArticleID=1331 (Accessed 24 October 2017)

ABSTRACT

Introduction:  Retention of rehabilitation therapists (RTs) in rural areas is a growing problem in rural Australia. Current literature demonstrates that private allied health professionals in general remain longer in rural areas than those working in the public sector. However, government focus to enhance retention has been on those employed in the public sector, offering private practitioners little incentive to stay rural. There has been an absence of policy commitment to attracting private professionals to rural areas or offering rural practitioners options for mixing private and public service. This study aimed to explore the thoughts and perceptions of private RTs in rural areas concerning their incorporation into broader rural health policies and concomitant programs.
Methods:  An online survey was sent to a purposively chosen sample of RTs in rural Victoria. Participants were selected from publicly available internet listings and were contacted via email. Possible participants were limited to those who had an email address and to those on three available professional lists (physiotherapy, occupational therapy and speech pathology). The survey consisted of 29 questions: eight related to the perceived place that practitioners in rural areas occupy; eight related to their professional practice; seven related to retention policies; two related to education and training; and four were demographic questions.
Results:  A total of 72 RTs completed the survey and were included in the analysis (40% response rate). The overwhelming majority of respondents were in favour of having partnerships between private and public practice in rural and regional areas and of governments developing programs to facilitate such partnerships. In total, 26% of respondents currently worked in some form of partnership with public agencies. There was also a reasonable response to the use of government incentives to retain and attract private practitioners to rural and regional areas.
Conclusions:  The results of this research indicate that many private RTs in Victoria perceived their greater involvement in the delivery of public health in rural areas in a positive manner.

Key words:  Australia, private allied health professionals, recruitment, retention.

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