Richard Harris, a physiotherapist and rural generalist trainee at Longreach Hospital, was at a stage in his career where he was looking for a new challenge. He was ready to study again and thanks to the Queensland Health Allied Health Rural Generalist Pathway, he could. 'I had a look around for a whole range of different courses at different rural universities, and the offering from Queensland Health in conjunction with James Cook University was by far the best. Exactly what I was looking for,' Richard said.
Under the pathway, trainees undertake post-graduate study, comprehensive work integrated training relevant to their profession, and a service project that aims to improve the access, quality and efficiency of healthcare for their rural and remote communities. Richard led a service development project to improve care for patients in the region with persistent pain with a new telehealth-enabled service to link patients with the Professor Tess Cramond Multidisciplinary Pain Centre at the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital (RBWH). Richard said: 'Patients were driving 14 hours to Brisbane or to Townsville to seek persistent pain consultations. Seeing all the persistent pain patients come through and the available telehealth units, I thought it was silly these patients were travelling so far, especially considering the initial persistent pain specialist consultation is predominantly speaking and less physical. These patients generally dislike sitting in the same position. I saw this gap and I thought it would be a good idea to implement.'
During the trial, patients with persistent pain who were referred and triaged by RBWH could be offered a telehealth consultation if it was assessed as clinically appropriate. The Central West telehealth coordinators arranged the appointment for the patient, their general practitioner and physiotherapist, and liaised with the RBWH team. The trial wrapped up in December 2019 and is now being evaluated. Richard said '[The] Nurse Navigator at the Professor Tess Cramond Multidisciplinary Pain Centre was outstanding.' 'I must thank the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital for their contribution and support. They have played a huge role in making this happen,' he added. 'Knowing this service will be here to help patients means a lot to me. It’s on a small scale now, but over time, it will make a big difference.'
Richard Harris, physiotherapist rural generalist trainee, Central West Hospital and Health Service
Richard has now completed his Graduate Diploma of Rural Generalist Practice through James Cook University and his project has been included in the Clinical Excellence Showcase 2020 program.
Queensland Health Allied Health Rural Generalist Pathway
The Queensland Health Allied Health Rural Generalist Pathway supports Hospital and Health Services (HHSs) to implement a comprehensive approach to service improvement, workforce development, and training in rural and remote allied health teams. It aims to improve the outcomes and sustainability of allied health services. The pathway is available for nine professions:
- Dietetics and nutrition
- Medical imaging
- Occupational therapy
- Social work
- Speech pathology
The positive response to the pathway continues to grow, with 39 designated rural generalist training positions to be implemented in the 2019–20 financial year—an increase from 21 in 2018–19.
The Allied Health Professions’ Office of Queensland worked with allied health and rural service leaders in Hospital and Health Services, and with health sector partners in other states and territories, peak bodies, and universities to design and trial the pathway.
Visit the Queensland Health Allied Health Rural Generalist Pathway webpage for more information.
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