Graduate recruitment program helping fill regional skills gap
Image: Laura, Graduate Occupational Therapist
With demand for disability services continuing to grow in regional areas, Marathon Health is working hard to help fill the current allied health skills gap, that is causing increasingly lengthy waiting lists for people with disabilities in rural and regional NSW.
Over the past three years, Marathon Health has supported 48 speech pathology, occupational therapy and social work students to complete clinical placements as part of a push to grow a regional workforce.
This resulted in 22 students taking on a role in rural or regional NSW and eight of these students staying to work with Marathon Health.
So far this year, Marathon Health has hosted 26 students from universities across NSW, the ACT and Victoria on clinical placements in Western NSW and the Murrumbidgee.
Julie Cullenward, Practice Lead – Allied Health, said many of these students are experiencing life in a rural community for the first time.
“We have realised that students often forego opportunities for placements in rural and remote NSW for a range of reasons, including the risk of losing part-time jobs and the costs involved in travel and accommodation,” Ms Cullenward said.
“In addition, many rural communities are unable to host allied health students due to the lack of suitably-experienced allied health professionals needed to provide appropriate clinical supervision.
“We know that if students miss out on the opportunity to experience life and work in these areas, we miss the chance to show them the benefits of rural living and the rewards that these professional experiences can bring.”
Last year, Marathon Health supported students to undertake virtual clinical placements as part of a small, community-driven trial. The trial sought to bridge the disconnect between physical placements as a result of lockdowns.
“Under this program, one of our occupational therapists provided the supervision for four allied health students on virtual placements at Brewarrina and Lightning Ridge,” Mrs Cullenward said.
As part of the search for allied health clinicians, the not-for-profit organisation launched a social media campaign that includes films of four recent graduates, and profiles of some of the mentors who are supporting students and new graduates in the areas of occupational therapy, speech pathology, dietetics, diabetes educators, social work and psychology.
In the first 10 days, the campaign reached more than 17,500 people via Facebook and short films showing recent graduates talking about their roles were viewed 30,150 times.
The full list of support available to students and graduates with Marathon Health is outlined at marathonhealth.com.au/student-graduate-opportunities and the films can be seen on Marathon Health’s Facebook page.