Using technology to recalibrate rural and remote health workforce education

Prof. Sabina Knight1

1James Cook University, Mount Isa Centre For Rural And Remote Health, Mount Isa, Australia


This presentation will discuss the use of technology to support health professional education in remote areas. Australian remote areas are characterised by health workforce maldistribution, vast distances, torrid climate extremes, infrastructure lag and diverse, dispersed populations with high health need and social disadvantage. Much of the northern remote regions of Australia not only typifies these features but also competes with mining for its health career market. Mining offers highly paid jobs with relative low requirements for formal qualifications resulting in a magnification of the health workforce maldistribution.

Exacerbating the situation is high staff turnover. Nurses recruited from metropolitan areas are unfamiliar with the context of practice, the burden of disease, the health services and the cultural context. One full time full time equivalent is not the same effective value as a local experienced full time equivalent placing further stress on health services across rural and remote Australia. Our hypothesis is that local graduates are more likely to be work ready and therefore effectively useful to the service in the first two years.

Remotely located academic infrastructure such as University Departments of Rural Health, regional training, recruitment of rural students into health careers, remote and rural clinical placements and graduate positions together with post graduate generalist programs have been identified as critical elements in successfully building a health workforce in and for a region. Technologically enable facilities enables traditional programs to be delivered to small towns and facilities overcoming access barriers.

The paper will describe the particular strategies necessary for success, notions of what constitutes sustainability and viability in health workforce redistribution and the role of partnerships and the leverage opportunities for innovative nursing education models in underserved and outback areas.




Professor Sabina Knight RN MTH FACN ARLF FCRANA Founding member and past president of CRANA and keen remote health advocate. Director of the Mount Isa Centre for Rural and Remote Health responsible for building health workforce in and for outback Queensland