Could adoption of the rural pipeline concept redress Australian optometry workforce issues?

Jacqueline M Kirkman, Sharon A Bentley, James A Armitage, Craig A Woods
Clinical & Experimental Optometry: Journal of the Australian Optometrical Association 2019, 102 (6): 566-570
People living in rural and remote areas have poorer ocular health outcomes compared with those living in metropolitan areas. Reasons for this are multiple and complex but access to care is consistently reported as a defining factor. The geographic maldistribution of eye-care professionals is a major obstacle for regional, rural and remote Australians seeking care. Research from the medical profession suggests adopting the 'rural pipeline' concept to address the issue of maldistribution. This approach appears to have had some success in medicine, and involves recruiting students from a rural background, exposing students to rural practice through placements and offering graduates incentives and support to practice rurally. Lessons could be learnt from the medical field as there is a dearth of literature describing the utilisation of the rural pipeline in allied health. However, given the differences between professions it cannot be assumed factors and results will be the same. A greater understanding is required to determine whether optometry is a profession which may benefit from the rural pipeline concept.

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