New publication: Building rural health workforce research capacity via training, education and mentoring

Research training incorporating education and mentoring for rural and regional allied health professionals: An evaluation study

  • Olivia A. King, Anna Wong Shee, Owen Howlett, Renee Clapham, Vincent L. Versace.
  • Aust J Rural Health. 2022 May 21. doi: 10.1111/ajr.12879. Online ahead of print. Read here.

Improving health outcomes for people in rural locations relies, at least in part, on getting research into practice. We know that research led by health professionals and health services influences evidence-based practice, improves service-user outcomes, and can help with health workforce recruitment and retention. However, health professionals working in rural settings have less access to research capacity building initiatives and opportunities than those working in major cities.

Our team delivered and evaluated a mentored, practice-based research training program for allied health professionals in rural Victoria. The program aimed to support participants to develop a research idea into a protocol and in turn improve their skills using research in practice (i.e., evidence-based practice).

We conducted pre- and post-training surveys to evaluate changes in knowledge, attitudes, and practice of evidence-based practice. We also held interviews to find out how the training influenced participants and their organisations develop and use evidence to guide practice.

We found that the training program led to several individual outcomes beyond increased research and evidence-based practice knowledge. Through their participation in the program, many became involved in rural research networks, and were exposed to new opportunities, ways of thinking about and approaching clinical practice changes. We also found that organisational research capacity and culture influenced the outcomes for individual allied health professionals that engaged in research training. Finally, although the training was targeted at the individual allied health professionals, it also impacted on organisation-level research capacity.

When designing and delivering research training programs, we must consider and address organisational factors. On the flip side, training individuals and developing their research and evidence-based practice skills can contribute to the enhancement of organisational research capacity.