During October the NRHA continued its series of meetings about the present and future situation for continuing professional development (CPD) for health professionals in more remote areas.
Should it not be replaced, the Rural Health Continuing Education (RHCE) program will be much missed. For the past five years Stream 2 of RHCE has provided a small but significant number of grants to support multi-professional CPD in rural and remote areas. The demand for such support has greatly exceeded the capacity of RHCE2 to meet it, with 3,000 online registrations and 119 projects funded. Demonstrating the high interest and need for tailored CPD, only 17% of the 685 project applications considered by the independent assessment panel could be funded. Between 2010-2015, RHCE2 enabled approximately 8,600 rural and remote practising health professionals to undertake CPD.
The meetings in Bendigo, Sydney and Alice Springs brought together many of the parties involved in providing CPD to the rural and remote health sector. Meetings included representatives from the new Primary Health Networks (PHNs). The PHNs will be well placed to identify gaps in the CPD available, and hopefully contribute to efforts that meet the ongoing need.
Hopefully as the Commonwealth Government goes through the process of reconfiguring its rural scholarships system, which focuses strongly on general practice but including the nursing, midwifery and allied health workforce, it will comprehend how important CPD that meets the needs of rural and remote practitioners is to rural recruitment and retention.
Attracting clinicians to work in the Bush is only half of the matter. Once there, they need to be supported to maintain and extend their skills, both for their own professional ends and to ensure the quality of the services they provide and the safety of the people they care for.