Chronic health workforce shortages significantly contribute to unmet health care needs in rural and remote communities. Of particular and growing concern are shortages of allied health professionals (AHPs). This study explored the contextual factors impacting the recruitment and retention of AHPs in rural Australia. A qualitative approach using a constructivist-interpretivist methodology was taken. Semi-structured interviews (n = 74) with executive staff, allied health (AH) managers and newly recruited AHPs working in two rural public health services in Victoria, Australia were conducted. Data was coded and categorised inductively and analysed thematically. The findings suggest that to support a stable and sustainable AH workforce, rural public sector health services need to be more efficient, strategic and visionary. This means ensuring that policies and procedures are equitable and accessible, processes are effective, and action is taken to develop local programs, opportunities and supports that allow AH staff to thrive and grow in place at all grade levels and life stages. This study reinforces the need for a whole-of-community approach to effectively support individual AH workers and their family members in adjusting to a new place and developing a sense of belonging in place. The recommendations arising from this study are likely to have utility for other high-income countries, particularly in guiding AH recruitment and retention strategies in rural public sector health services. Recommendations relating to community/place will likely benefit broader rural health workforce initiatives.
Keywords: Australia; allied health; local context; recruitment; retention; rural health workforce; turnover.