Starting out in rural New South Wales: the experiences of new graduate occupational therapists


Dr Lynette Mackenzie, Head of Discipline of Occupational Therapy, Internal Box No. 19, Hunter Building, University of Newcastle, Callaghan, New South Wales 2308, Australia. Email:


The current shortage of health personnel in rural Australia is compounded by the difficulty in recruiting and retaining new graduate health professionals in rural practice. This qualitative study aimed to explore the experiences of five new graduate occupational therapists who began their careers in rural New South Wales (NSW). Data were collected via semi-structured, individual interviews. Results indicated that new graduates were attracted to their rural positions by multiple factors, especially their previous rural experience. Participants experienced low self-confidence during their transition from student to therapist. Rewarding and challenging aspects of rural practice were identified. New graduates valued challenging aspects of rural practice as opportunities for skill development. Results suggest that increasing the number of occupational therapy graduates with rural experience may attract more graduates to rural practice. Furthermore, enhancing the support available to new graduates in rural positions may help retain graduates in rural practice.