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Original Research

2014 Rural Clinical School Training and Support Program Snapshot survey

Submitted: 2 September 2014
Revised: 5 June 2015
Accepted: 8 June 2015
Published: 8 October 2015

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Author(s) : Mendis K, Greenhill J, Walker J, Bailey J, Croft A, Doyle Z, McCrossin T, Stevens W.

Jennene GreenhillJudi Walker

Citation: Mendis K, Greenhill J, Walker J, Bailey J, Croft A, Doyle Z, McCrossin T, Stevens W.  2014 Rural Clinical School Training and Support Program Snapshot survey. Rural and Remote Health (Internet) 2015; 15: 3276. Available: http://www.rrh.org.au/articles/subviewnew.asp?ArticleID=3276 (Accessed 19 October 2017)

ABSTRACT

Introduction:  The Rural Clinical Training and Support (RCTS) program is an Australian Government initiative to address the shortage of medical practitioners within rural and remote Australia. There is a large amount of published information about the RCTS program and rural medical student cohorts who have undertaken short- and long-term rotations. However, very little is known about the academic and professional staff involved in the program, a knowledge gap that may impact workforce and succession planning. To address this, the Federation of Rural Australian Medical Educators (FRAME) initiated the pilot 2014 RCTS Snapshot survey to obtain data on the current RCTS workforce.
Methods:  All professional, academic and clinical academic staff (fixed-term and continuing, regardless of fraction) employed through the RCTS program were invited to complete a short, web-based survey. The survey was conducted from March to June 2014. The quantitative variables in the survey included demographics (age and gender), rural background and exposure, employment history in rural/regional areas and at rural clinical schools (RCS), experience and expertise, reasons for working at RCS, and future employment intentions. The last three questions also were of a qualitative open-ended format to allow respondents to provide additional details regarding their reasons for working at RCSs and their future intentions.
Results:  The estimated total RCTS workforce was 970. A total of 413 responses were received and 316 (40.9%) complete responses analysed. The majority of respondents were female (71%), the 40–60-year age group was predominant (28%), and professional staff constituted the majority (62%). The below 40-year age group had more professionals than academics (21% vs 12%) and more than 62% of academics were aged above 50 years. Notably, there were no academics aged less than 30 years. The percentage of professional staff with a rural background was higher (62%) than that of academics with a rural background (42%). However, more than 70% of academics had previous exposure to a rural area as an adult and 32% had an exposure as a part of university or the TAFE (technical and further education) system. More than half (62%) of RCTS academics were aged more than 50 years and thus approaching retirement age. The implementation of a FRAME-sponsored leadership and succession program was considered by most staff (84%) as one strategy that could be used to prevent a future shortage of academics. Lifestyle reasons for working at an RCS were common to both academic (54%) and professional (63%) staff. A passion for rural health and building capacity within the rural health workforce were other central themes to emerge from the qualitative data. Uncertainty around contract renewal and future funding were dominant themes to emerge from respondents regarding their future employment intentions within the RCTS program. 
Conclusions:  This study has provided valuable insights into the professional and academic staff’s views and aspirations about the RCTS program. These data on the current RCTS workforce provide a benchmark to which future surveys of the workforce can be compared to monitor trends in turnover or predict future shortages due to cohort ageing.

Key words: academic, Australia, professional, rural clinical school, rural workforce, staff.

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