Metropolitan universities who offer nursing and allied health training in regional areas are coming together to form a coalition to help improve the outcomes for students and push regional health research.
The Departments of Rural Health at Melbourne, Monash and Deakin universities have formed a partnership that enables them to share resources, training and accommodation to improve student experience and community outcomes.
And at a practical level, each will support the others' students in training placements at different locations across the state.
Currently each university program covers different regions of the state - University of Melbourne covers Ballarat, Shepparton and Wangaratta; Monash looks after Bendigo, Mildura and Gippsland and Deakin encompasses Warrnambool and Hamilton.
We support (students) to get the training they need and encourage them to have a great time while there and learn that rural practice is exciting and diverse and to challenge some of the stereotypes that exist around regional and rural practice.Professor Lisa Bourke
The three universities will enter a formal Memorandum of Understanding to work collaboratively, share resources and advocate for improved training, research and better rural health outcomes across Victoria.
"Our programs support the existing rural health workforce, train the next generation of rural health practitioners and develop new and innovative approaches to workforce development, recruitment and retention," said University of Melbourne Department of Rural Health Professor Lisa Bourke.
The alliance will support about 4000 nursing and allied health students studying at the three universities, and seeks to help boost numbers in the rural health workforce.
"There is a greater shortage of allied health professional in regional areas than medical health professionals," Prof Bourke said.
"Students come out to a rural hospital or health centre and do part of their clinical training for maybe three or five weeks, but some come for three months or longer. We support them to get the training they need and encourage them to have a great time while there and learn that rural practice is exciting and diverse and to challenge some of the stereotypes that exist around regional and rural practice.
"This partnership will make it more seamless, consistent and easier for students to move around and do the things they might like to do while ensuring they have a quality rural experience so they can consider a rural career."
The three universities will also work together to develop state-wide research projects and initiatives in areas including mental health and indigenous health.
"Individually we run a range of research projects in our areas of Victoria, but it makes much more sense to look at some of these issues right across the state," Prof Bourke said.
Monash Rural Health Rural Nursing and Allied Lead Susan Waller said the move signalled a maturity in the programs and opportunities for future growth.
"It will enable bigger, better, more efficient and more effective rural health strategies to be implemented across the state," Dr Waller said.
Deakin UDRH director Vincent Versace said his university supported student placements in small towns where accommodation could be lacking, and educators were thin on the ground.
"We support students to go out to these small rural services, use their skills and contribute to the health service in positive ways," Associate Professor Versace said.
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