Western District Health Service (WDHS) and the Implementation of the Attract Connect Stay Framework

We strive to make every staff member feel like they’re not just joining a workplace, but becoming part of a community. WDHS’ Senior Executive. 

Situation Overview: 
In June 2022, Western District Health Service (WDHS) embarked on an ambitious project to implement the Attract Connect Stay (ACS) Framework, developed by Dr. Cath Cosgrave. This evidence-based framework, crucial in addressing workforce challenges in rural health services, emphasises a holistic approach to staff attraction, recruitment, and retention, focusing equally on workplace and community integration. 

The Challenge: 
WDHS faced significant challenges in staffing, particularly in attracting and retaining skilled professionals in the Southern Grampians region. Common issues included unawareness of the region as a desirable workplace, inefficiencies in the WDHS’ recruitment process, and lack of support for new staff integrating into the workplace and the local community. We knew we had to rethink our strategy entirely, admits a WDHS’ project team member, reflecting the need for a comprehensive solution. Implementing the Framework wasn’t just about filling positions; it was about finding the right fit applicant for both our workplace and our community, a WDHS manager explained. 

The Solution – Attract Connect Stay In Action: 
The ACS Framework’s implementation was staged in two phases, focusing first on attracting and recruiting staff, then on community integration of new staff, recruited from out-of-region, and their long-term retention.  

The implementation of the Attract Connect Stay Framework at WDHS was marked by several key strategies: 

  • Comprehensive Recruitment Approach: WDHS’ recruitment processes and policy were overhauled to better represent the lifestyle benefits of the Southern Grampians region, alongside the professional opportunities at WDHS. 
  • Enhanced Onboarding and Integration: New initiatives, such as improved onboarding processes, were implemented to foster a sense of belonging and to assist new staff in adjusting to their roles and new-to-area staff to the local community. 
  • Community Connector Program: This establishment of this program was pivotal in assisting new-to-area WDHS’ staff and their families in settling, addressing their immediate needs (housing, partner employment, childcare, schooling), and helping them and their partners form social connections. 
  • Training Workshops for Recruiting Managers: The ACS Team facilitated a series of focused workshops over 2022 for WDHS’ recruiting managers. These workshops were designed to enhance skills in attracting, recruiting, and retaining staff, aligned with the ACS Framework’s five implementation pillars [1. Attract, 2. Recruit, 3. Settle & Connect (Organisation), 4. Settle & Connect (Community), 5. Stay]. The sessions covered critical topics such as effective recruitment strategies, optimising onboarding processes, and implementing person-centred management approaches to promote staff satisfaction and retention. 

The Results – What Sets Attract Connect Stay Apart: 
The results, at the 18-month mark (Dec 23) though mixed, show promise.  

  • Reduction in Job Vacancies: The new recruitment strategies contributed to a significant reduction in the number of open positions at WDHS. 

Our refined recruitment strategies have resulted in a reduction in open positions and faster filling of roles, indicating a more efficient recruitment process at WDHS. WDHS’ project team member 

  • Retention and Satisfaction Improvements: Implementation of the ACS Framework led to a noticeable improvement in staff retention rates. Employee satisfaction surveys indicated higher contentment with the recruitment process and the onboarding support received. 

The comprehensive induction and orientation processes we’ve established have led to an increase in staff satisfaction, making new staff feel more welcomed and integrated into our WDHS community. WDHS’ project team member 

  • Effective Community Engagement: The Community Connector role successfully bridged the gap between new staff and the local community, aiding in their integration and contributing to their decision to stay in the region. 

The Community Connector Program has been a game-changer, significantly helping new staff and their families settle in, which is evident from the high levels of satisfaction reported. WDHS’ project team member 

Future Outlook – The 2024 Focus for Attract Connect Stay Team: 
In 2024, the ACS team aims to continue building on these successes, further enhancing the integration of the ACS principles into the operational and community culture of WDHS. The focus will be on sustainable implementation, ongoing monitoring, and adapting strategies as needed to maintain and improve workforce stability. 

Going into 2024, our focus is to address the highlighted challenges, ensuring that the ACS Framework’s principles are thoroughly integrated into our operations for sustained impact”. WDHS’ project team member 


The ACS Framework’s implementation at WDHS has demonstrated a successful approach to addressing the unique challenges of staffing in rural healthcare. The combination of evidence-based, community-focused strategies has led to tangible improvements in staff recruitment, retention, and integration. The ongoing commitment to this approach, with continuous evaluation and adaptation, positions WDHS as a progressive model for healthcare staffing in rural settings. 


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