Innovation supporting our rural health workforce

Recruiting and retaining health care workers in rural areas has always been a challenge and holistic solutions are needed to attract and retain health care workers now and into the future, as Clinical Psychologist Christina Petz discovered.

As the operator of WA’s three Primary Health Networks, WA Primary Health Alliance (WAPHA) works closely with health service providers to improve workforce shortages, utilising innovative approaches to make best use of available resources.

WAPHA’s Goldfields Regional Clinical Committee has committed to improving retention of health workforce in the region. As a member of the committee, Christina Petz, said it has been very challenging to recruit clinical psychologists to Kalgoorlie-Boulder as is can be in other regional areas.

Clinical Psychologist Christina Petz

“There can be many issues with retaining generally in the workforce, including excessive workloads, lack of mentoring, staff burnout, poor training opportunities, feeling isolated away from family and poor self-care.

“After recruiting a Psychologist from overseas, he had to return for a family emergency, so we started up a telehealth service. Clients could come into our rooms and see him on a computer we set up just for this service or they could see him on their own device from the comfort of their home or place of work.

“He had some complex clients that had been seeing him since he was here in Kalgoorlie-Boulder, and they continued to see him online. The ongoing attendance of these clients spoke a thousand words.

“This is a fantastic service that can fill the gaps in service provision, especially in areas where there are no psychologists. I hope to branch out soon to Esperance, remote areas of WA and further up the North of WA where I expect they experience the same issues of access to psychological services as we do in Kalgoorlie-Boulder,” Christina said.

WA Primary Health Alliance Regional Manager – Goldfields, Sarah Brown, said Christina’s story is a fantastic example of providers thinking outside the box to help contribute to retention of health workforce in regional areas.

“Christina’s initiative not only provides her staff with flexibility through an online service delivery model, but it also benefits the community through retaining qualified and much needed staff in the region. A win-win for everyone,” Sarah said.