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Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, 2006/10/10 - Results of a study conducted by researchers from the Rural Doctors Workforce Agency in SA and Flinders University shows that providing adequate support networks to enhance the physical and mental health of our rural doctors is essential.. NYSE: JWa, JWb
Published by Blackwell Publishing in the October 2006 issue of the Australian Journal of Rural Health, the study is aimed at evaluating the impacts of rural doctor workforce support programs like the Dr. DOC Program – which consists of social and psychological support and practical interventions – on the wellbeing and retention of rural GPs.
Surveying a total of 221 GPs within the South Australian rural workforce, the study showed that there have been improvements made in the existing support networks - through which GPs’ physical and emotional health were enhanced.
There was also flow on effect in the reduction in number of GPs wanting to leave the rural general practice in the short to medium term.
The results of this study emphasize the importance of making initiatives supporting the increase in number of rural GPs a top priority. The success of these initiatives will serve to enable the rural community to retain its existing talent pool by improving the overall wellbeing of rural doctors. The Dr DOC Program, which has many aspects which may form the basis of models of professional support programs across Australia, seeks to do just that – targeting to enhance the psychological and physical wellbeing of GPs by meeting their need for social support, thus lowering their feelings of isolation and distress.
Additional areas in which rural GPs require, or welcome, assistance in include personal self-management by way of Rural Retreats, and regular health check-ups or Visiting Health Check-ups, which aim to encourage GPs themselves to seek regular health care from their own doctor.
Co-author Dr. Roger Sexton from the Rural Doctors Workforce Agency and the GP responsible for the Dr. DOC Program on which this evaluative study is based, said, “The concept of retreats and check-ups are particularly ground-breaking. They work positively towards reducing stress levels, upping morale and thus improving the overall quality of work like.”
Lead author Maria Gardiner, from the School of Psychology at Flinders University, said, “This study demonstrates a set of ideas which were trialled and found to be effective in not only inspiring rural doctors to regard their health as important but in retaining doctors in the bush as well.”
Co-authors Hugh Kearns and Kelly Marshall from Flinders University added, “The results of this study highlights the role of psychological wellbeing in retaining rural GPs and emphasize the value of developing effective psychologically-based programs to not only boost the physical and mental health of GPs, but also to reduce the departure from rural areas.”
This study is published in Australian Journal of Rural Health (Vol. 14. Issue 5, 65).