Staying in the bush

rural Australia

Targeting rural and regional students for study at a rural pharmacy school will help to reduce workforce shortages, researchers say

New Australian research has supported the theory that students who study at a rural or regional pharmacy school are more likely to remain in such an area during their careers.

Researchers investigated the career paths of the 996 students who have graduated since 2002 from the James Cook University pharmacy program. 

Of these graduates, 640 (65.8%) were practising within Queensland in 2019. When compared to other Australian pharmacy graduates practising in Queensland in 2019, the James Cook graduate cohort had “significantly higher odds” of practising in local government areas with greater social disadvantage, and in rural and remote locations.

The researchers also investigated the background of the students and found that, of the 822 domestic James Cook University graduates, 84.5% were from a regional, rural or remote area.

Two-thirds of these graduates were subsequently practicing pharmacy in settings with the same or more rural Modified Monash Model classification as their area of origin.

“Given that 85% of JCU graduates are from areas with a MMM 2-7 ranking, the program appears to
be achieving its goal of supplying regional, rural and remote areas within Qld with a pharmacist workforce,” said the study authors, Aaron Drovandi and Torres Woolley of the College of Medicine & Dentistry, James Cook University.

“Compared to other universities, pharmacy graduates from an Australian regional university are
more likely to practise in regional, rural and remote areas, including communities with greater
relative socio-economic disadvantage”.

“This study indicates that regional pharmacy schools have potential to attract and retain graduates in regional, rural and remote areas, including disadvantaged and/or rural towns,” the authors concluded.

“Combining the provision of… incentives with increased enrolments of health professional students from regional, rural and remote areas may be more effective in addressing rural health workforce shortages,
particularly if they are supported by emerging technologies such as telemedicine”.

The study was published in the Australian Journal of Rural Health.

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