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Impact and feasibility of the Allied Health Professional Enhancement Program placements – experiences from rural and remote Queensland

Authors Martin P, Kumar S, Stone M, Abernathy L, Burge V, Lizarondo L

Received 22 July 2015

Accepted for publication 11 November 2015

Published 4 February 2016 Volume 2016:7 Pages 41—48


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewers approved by Dr Maria Olenick

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Dr Anwarul Azim Majumder

Priya Martin,1,2 Saravana Kumar,2 Melinda Stone,1 LuJuana Abernathy,1 Vanessa Burge,1 Lucylynn Lizarondo3

1Allied Health Education and Training, Cunningham Centre, Darling Downs Hospital and Health Service, Toowoomba, QLD, 2International Centre for Allied Health Evidence (iCAHE), School of Health Sciences, University of South Australia, 3Joanna Briggs Institute, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, SA, Australia

Background: Allied health professionals practicing in rural and remote areas are often faced with barriers that prevent them from accessing professional development opportunities. In order to address this barrier, a tailored professional development program was developed and implemented by the Cunningham Centre in Queensland, Australia. The purpose of this study was to investigate the benefits of the program to participants and their work units.
Methods: This study used a concurrent mixed methods longitudinal design to investigate the medium- to long-term benefits of one Allied Health Professional Enhancement Program placement. Surveys and individual interviews provided data at 2 weeks and at 6 months post-placement. The study participants included the placement participant (a physiotherapist), their line manager, clinical supervisor, and the placement facilitator.
Results: Results demonstrated that the placement resulted in various reported benefits to the placement participant, as well as to service delivery in their home location. Benefits of the placement reported by the participant included increased confidence, improved knowledge and skills, increased access to professional networks, and validation of practice. Benefits to service delivery reported included improved efficiencies, improved patient outcomes, and positive impact on other team members.
Discussion: This study found that the Allied Health Professional Enhancement Program placement investigated was beneficial to the participant and to service delivery. In addition, the benefits reported were sustained at 6 months post-placement. Despite the fact that this study showcases experiences from one setting, the findings from this study and the lessons learnt may be transferrable to other similar programs elsewhere due to its methodological strengths (such as rich descriptions of the program and use of typical case sampling). While this study provides emergent evidence of usefulness of the program to participants and their work units, further studies are warranted to investigate the direct benefits of such placements on patient care, which remains as the holy grail of the impact of professional development opportunities.
Conclusion: Allied Health Professional Enhancement Program placements can result in important benefits to the participant, their health service, and positively influence health care service delivery.

Keywords: allied health, placements, rural, remote, professional development

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