Do we have unrealistic expectations for how long our health professionals will stick around?
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Rural Doctors Association of Australia CEO Peta Rutherford thinks so.
Amidst a severe shortage of allied health services in the Dubbo area, Ms Rutherford says the community should welcome new professionals to town with open arms but understand they might only stay for "five to seven years".
"There's a responsibility on the community to understand that people will move around, they don't stay in the same place forever... we have a much more transient workforce now, people don't stay in that one job for 50 years," she told the Daily Liberal.
"Doctors, nurses, midwives and allied health professionals will come into communities and they will love them. But chances are, they'll also have other things that they're interested in and other opportunities come up.
"We have to manage some expectations when we get a doctor about how long they're going to stay."
A report by not-for-profit health insurance provider Westfund released on Thursday, November 2, revealed Dubbo experiences one of the highest shortages of healthcare providers of all the areas they cover.
According to Westfund, there are only 30 ancillary service providers - such as dentists, optometrists, physiotherapists, podiatrists, and psychologists - per 1000 people in Dubbo.
"We often talk about from a rural doctor's perspective the need to access care as much care as possible close to home. Because if they can't, some people choose not to access care," she said.
"Then when they need care they end up being presented in an emergency department and their condition is acute as opposed to something being managed."
She said key to filling the gaps in the region's health workforce is exposure to rural and remote and regional environments during future professionals' university years.
"The results are pretty consistent, in relation to converting them to a longer term rural doctor, that continued exposure throughout the various points of their medical school training is key," she said.
"Their internship, their hospital years and then their registrar training - that's when we seem to be able to capture them because that's when they're making decisions about buying a house, meeting partners, maybe putting their kids in schools.
"Life things have an impact and if we can align it with rural exposure, then we start to, lock people in a little bit more."
But the community also has a role to play.
"Give [health professionals] a lot of hospitality, invite them into the sporting groups and the arts groups, whatever it might be. But recognize they probably won't be there forever. And that's okay."
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