Guided by an ad hoc working group in each jurisdiction, the Alliance is running a series of networking and knowledge transfer meetings for interested parties on the issue of Continuing Professional Development in rural and remote health settings. The 'roadshow' began with three meetings in WA in early August and has since travelled to Cairns, Adelaide and, most recently, to Darwin.
For the past five years there has been a modest but significant amount of support provided for clinicians in more remote areas seeking CPD through stream 2 of the Rural Health Continuing Education program (RHCE2). This program has been administered for the Commonwealth Department of Health by the National Rural Health Alliance.
Sadly RHCE2 is being terminated at the end of this year. The Department is supporting work by the Alliance to bring together providers of CPD and other interested parties in rural and remote areas to try to ensure that health professionals' needs will still be met despite the transition from Medicare Locals to PHNs and the ending of RHCE2.
The roundtable meetings are highlighting the difference in CPD provisions in each jurisdiction. The NT is fortunate in having a PHN which is strongly multi-professional and whose very structure integrates the NT Department of Health and the Rural Workforce Agency. But there is more work to be done. Participants at the Darwin meeting suggested that online learning is not the only way for encouraging engagement in CPD and the marketing and culture of its delivery is vitally important in context across all professions. Logistics and lack of mentoring are also proving hurdles in this environment.
Participants in Darwin confirmed continuing professional development requires a strong infrastructure within organisations where all levels are willing to support the gaps and encourage accountability of staff - across multiple areas of program and service delivery.
There is certainly a similar theme emerging from each roundtable highlighting the need for a centralised point of sharing information on CPD and scholarship opportunities.
Efforts will hopefully continue in the State to bring together information about the need for CPD for particular purposes (chronic disease; aged care; inter-professional learning) and in particular regions.
The series of planned meetings will equip the Alliance with accurate and up-to-date information which can be the basis for national advocacy on the matter. Without the efforts of RHCE2 there will be gaps to be filled in the systematic provision of continuing professional development for health practitioners in rural and remote areas. Much can perhaps be achieved through the leadership of the new PHNs.