Blog – ‘Magic sauce’ ingredients helping improve access to healthcare in rural communities.
Chronic healthcare workforce shortages and high turnover of health professionals are a common challenge facing many rural communities. But there is a solution!
Attract Connect Stay is using some ‘magic sauce’ ingredients as part of a proven strategy to help build a stronger healthcare workforce in rural communities.
Growing a strong health workforce in rural communities
The Attract Connect Stay model is built on Dr Cath Cosgrave’s 25+ years’ experience working with rural communities developing community-centred, strength-based strategies to effectively address local health and community service issues.
Dr Cosgrave has long been passionate about addressing rural access inequities and resourcing challenges, coupled with her desire to support rural communities to become thriving and sustainable places to live and work.
It was in 2019 on a Churchill Fellowship trip to Canada, she came across Marathon community’s approach to addressing their own critical health workforce shortages.
“In 2009, in Marathon, Ontario Canada the community responded to a critical healthcare workforce shortage by establishing a locally-funded, locally-recruited and community-managed Health Workforce Recruiter Connector position. Since then, there have been no health workforce shortages,” Dr Cosgrave says.
She knew there were some lessons to be learned from the Marathon community’s approach.
Why does it work?
Dr Cosgrave says there are some key ‘magic sauce’ ingredients of Marathon’s Health Workforce Recruiter Connector that helped shape the Attract Connect Stay program.
1. Local businesses and services (including local government; health services and major employers/businesses) are the main source of funding for the HWRC position
2. HWRC is a dedicated position and sustainable local funding sources are secured within three years of starting.
3. HWRC is engaged on an annual deliverables contract basis with set total hours.
4. HWRC is demand driven position and the incumbent works flexibly to meet local healthcare workforce needs as they arise
5. HWRC provides a concierge service and has customer service skills and experience
6. HWRC has strong local networks and skills and experience building external networks
7. HWRC updates the community on recruitment and retention developments and successes are celebrated
8. The HWRC is overseen by a management committee comprising community leaders and local health organisations
9. Residents of the local community provide in-kind supports to allow interested candidates and new workers (and their families) to experience the lifestyle and recreational features of the local area
10. Residents of the local community develop a strong understanding of the challenges of attracting, and retaining health professionals and understand the need to fund a dedicated and continuous Health Workforce Recruiter Connector position.
How does it look for your community?
The goal of the Attract Connect Stay project is to create a website with tools and resources to support rural communities to successfully establish, manage and financially sustain their own Rural Health Recruiter Connector position.
“It’s important to take some time to consider the magic ingredients in your community,” Dr Cosgrave says.
“Things such as funding and fundraising, management, contract terms, implementing a customer-service approach and engaging the whole community.”
If you’re unsure whether your community is ready for the Attract Connect Stay program – it’s simple to discover. Part 1 of the Attract Connect Stay readiness course will help you decide if the Attract Connect Stay solution is a good fit for your rural community. And it’s free!
Get started here.