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Training pathway helps rural patients access expanded allied health services

The North Burnett community is reaping the benefits of a WBHHS program that is supporting allied health professionals to pursue a career locally and expand the availability of services as a result.

As International Allied Health Professionals Day approaches on October 14, rural physiotherapist Nicole Greiner is celebrating her advancement to a senior role, following her recent completion of Queensland Health’s Allied Health Rural Development Pathway.

The pathway means Ms Greiner – who was born and raised in Gayndah – has been able to fast-track her development through the intensive training program, meaning the community can also now benefit from the skills of a senior health professional committed to the region.

“I grew up on my parents’ cattle property and was heavily involved in sports from a young age, so I had many opportunities to witness the impact that injury and illness have, not only on the patient but also on their family,” Ms Greiner said.

“I went to high school in Gayndah, did work experience and my university placement with the Gayndah-based Rural Allied and Community Health Team, and was lucky enough to get a base-grade position here following a short stint in private practice.

“The support that a small country town provides to someone in need is something really special. Understanding this, I always knew that I wanted to be involved in helping people and that I wanted to give back to a community that has given me so much growing up.

“The broad caseload I have here has helped to give me experience in a lot of different aspects of physiotherapy. So it’s great for me professionally, but it also means I can stay close to where I grew up and raise my own family in a place I love.”

WBHHS Rural Allied and Community Health Team Leader Lisa Baker said the development pathway was a great tool to attract allied health professionals into WBHHS positions, providing them with additional training and support that prepare them for senior roles within the team.

“If we're unable to recruit a senior position, we have the option to advertise for a specific Allied Health Rural Development Pathway position instead,” Ms Baker said.

“We can then appoint a qualified allied health professional at a more junior level, but use the salary gap to develop their skills to meet our local needs.

“It’s a win-win. Our community ends up with a highly-qualified senior health professional, and for Nicole it’s a significant and intensive investment in her career."

Through the pathway, Ms Greiner undertook postgraduate training in areas such as project management, clinical skills, safety and quality, leadership, workflow and demand management, service evaluation and planning.

Ms Baker said the Allied Health Professional Rural Development Pathway had been highly successful in Wide Bay’s rural areas, with four staff from physiotherapy, psychology and speech pathology disciplines having so far completed the program.

“The pathway is about training rural clinicians across a ‘generalist’ caseload and enhancing skills to manage a clinical caseload that varies every day, with every patient,” Ms Baker said.

“It’s helped us to increase access to allied health services for rural consumers and has expanded the range of services available closer to home.

“It’s also helped us to improve the quality and safety, appropriateness, efficiency and sustainability of services.”

WBHHS now receives funding to employ rural generalists for both base-grade and development positions from the Allied Health Profession’s Office of Queensland, and the training is supported by the Queensland Health Allied Health Rural Generalist Pathway.

Funding is used to cover trainees’ postgraduate university fees and training with the Rural Allied Health team.

Last updated: 13 October 2020