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Profile of the rural allied health workforce in Northern New South Wales and comparison with previous studies


Dr Tony Smith, University of Newcastle, University Department of Rural Health, Locked Bag 9783 NEMSC, Tamworth, New South Wales, 2348, Australia. Email:


Objective: To survey allied health professionals in one region of New South Wales.

Design: A questionnaire designed to give a profile of the allied health workforce was mailed to 451 practitioners from 12 health professions between July and September 2005.

Setting: The region included the upper Hunter Valley, Liverpool Plains, New England Tablelands and North-west Slopes and Plains of New South Wales.

Main outcome measures: The overall response was 49.8%, although the response rates varied between disciplines. Data were collected for a wide range of dependent variables.

Results: Pharmacists were the most numerous respondents (21.8%), followed by physiotherapists (17.3%), psychologists (12.4%), radiographers (11.1%) and occupational therapists (10.6%). These five professions made up 73.3% of respondents. Approximately 75% of the sample worked in Rural, Remote and Metropolitan Areas (RRMA) 3 and 4 sized towns. The female to male ratio was 3:1. The mean age was 43 years, the average time since qualification was 20 years and the mean time in the current position was 10 years. Half of the respondents said they intended leaving within 5 years. Some 65% were of rural origin. The ratio of private to public sector employment was 0.75:1, with 64.0% working full-time.

Conclusions: Comparison is made between this and previous studies. The results highlight the need for further regional allied health workforce profiling and for a recruitment and retention strategy that targets new graduates of rural origin and encourages them to stay.

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