BENDIGO-BASED researchers have helped confirm allied health graduates are more likely to start careers in regional areas if they base themselves there for their university studies.
It bolsters long-held theories that universities should offer courses end-to-end regionally to help solve workforce shortages in regional and rural Australia, La Trobe Rural Health School deputy dean Mel Bish said.
She said those shortages are persistent.
"That's not something that we are going to be able to negate quickly," the Bendigo expert said.
She was part of a team with links to La Trobe, Deakin and James Cook University which built on studies showing that health professionals' decisions to work in rural areas is influenced by growing up there.
Dr Bish said graduates studying in rural areas are more likely to take a job at a rural health service after eight weeks of placement.
A metropolitan student needs to spend 20 weeks based there before it influences their decision, she said.
It could be food-for-thought for country health services who sometimes have to decide between students competing for limited numbers of placements.
The study tracked 5506 graduates who studied in regional cities like Bendigo and did placements in non-metropolitan areas. They had studied nursing, allied health and oral health disciplines.
It found one third of graduates started their careers in regional areas, another third in rural places and the rest in metropolitan regions.
A majority had returned to the same regions they had been raised in after graduating, though a significant number had found their way into services they had done placements in, the research found.
The results underscore arguments that people trained in regional Victoria will stay there, limiting brain drain to big cities, Dr Bish said.
La Trobe's rural health school is headquartered in Bendigo, along with parts of a doctor training program run in conjunction with the University of Melbourne's Shepparton campus.
Universities' pushes for more infrastructure and support is having an effect on regional and rural areas, Dr Bish said.
"Just the other day, the federal government promised $19.5 million into establishing a rural clinical school in Greater Shepparton," Dr Bish said.
"This is about improving health outcomes for people in regional Victoria, and that's coming with money from the government, La Trobe and Goulburn Valley Health.
"It's making sure we have dedicated, state of the art facilities to support student learning."
The research, "Does undertaking rural placements add to place of origin as a predictor of where health graduates work", appears in the Australian Journal of Rural Health.
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