Funding to ease regional health shortage

La Trobe University has been awarded $3.1 million from the Australian Government’s 2008 Diversity and Structural Adjustment Fund to help establish a new school for regional and rural nursing at the La Trobe Bendigo Campus.

Nursing students help patient“This is good news for Bendigo and for the future of rural health,” said La Trobe Vice Chancellor, Professor Paul Johnson.

“The funding will help address the critical shortage of rural based nursing and allied health professionals and it will develop a suite of new interdisciplinary, common first year programs with strong links to industry for professional placements and professional education,” said Professor Johnson. Federal Member for Batman, Martin Ferguson AM MP and Minister for Tourism, Resources and Energy welcomed Australian Government funding of $3.1 million for La Trobe University.  

 “The funding is for the Integrated Rural Health Workforce Development project which will address the critical shortages of rural-based nursing and allied health professional students and restructure regional health education at the University,” said Minister Ferguson. Northern Victoria has a growing population, which has is experiencing rapid ageing and an above-average burden of disease. There is also a large indigenous community. The current and predicted demand for health services far outweighs the service delivery capacity.

There are insufficient regional health education programs to meet the current and predicted workforce demand.  Low socio-economic status and lower access to higher education means there is strong need to maximise opportunities for regional students to participate in higher education and provide TAFE articulation pathways. The demand for more diverse programs is high.

The new funding will help La Trobe in Bendigo become a major contributor of skilled health professionals to the rural and regional workforce. The $3.1 million will provide: Seed- funding for 3 years for four professorial positions in allied health and nursing and administrative support for these positions. These senior appointments are essential to develop this concept and to build excellence in learning and teaching and research across the 4 regional campuses.

 A first year co-ordinator will be engaged to support and oversee the implementation of the new curriculum. The new innovative Bachelors/Masters programs will be implemented across all of La Trobe’s campuses and will require strong co-ordination to maintain consistency and quality across the four regional campuses, separated by significant geographic distance.

This position will develop mechanisms for student engagement that will ensure minimum student attrition, continued support for professional development programs for staff to ensure that new teaching models represent cutting edge learning and teaching methods, and will assist with the development of innovative course material, including web based solutions, to improve access to high quality educational resources for geographically distant students. Full time external relations staff will be funded to develop an External Relations Unit as an integral part of the School.

It is expected that, in time, the new and expanded programs will be delivered by an additional 28 academics at Level A, B, C and D and there will be a strong emphasis on joint appointments between the University and health and human services consistent with the clinical school model.