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How do we keep nurses in rural Australia?

According to the World Health Organization, around half of the world’s population lives in rural areas but only 38 per cent of nurses and 25 per cent of doctors work in those areas.

In Australia, people living in rural and remote areas have 1.3 times the mortality rates of their city dwelling counterparts, as well as higher rates of disease and likelihood of serious injury. This are down to myriad factors including financial disadvantage, poor education and importantly, access to health services.

Couple this with a forecasted shortfall in the nursing profession – estimates suggest a projected deficit of 85,000 by 2025 – the communities in rural and remote areas will feel the brunt of the nursing drought.

Cath Cosgrave, research fellow at UniMelb’s Rural Health Workforce, and her colleagues have recently looked into nursing turnover, especially among early career nurses and allied health professionals working in rural and remote Australia.

Cosgrave looked at what prompts health professionals to leave and how best to improve retention rates.

Conventional wisdom might suggest that turnover is high as health professionals, especially recent grads, find living in these areas difficult. And whilst this is part of the story, Cosgrave posits a “whole-person” explanation and that a major factor in turnover is professional satisfaction – workplace relationships and personal development.

Cosgrave sat down to speak with Nursing Review about her research and improving rural healthcare going forward.

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