OBJECTIVE: To identify recruitment and retention issues for allied health professionals at two rural health services. DESIGN: A qualitative study using semi-structured interviews was used to collect the data which were analysed using thematic analysis. SETTING: A regional public health service and a community health service in central eastern Victoria, Australia. PARTICIPANTS: Eight final-year allied health students, 7 allied health or discipline managers, 18 current allied health staff and 10 former allied health staff participated in the interviews. Participants' professional backgrounds included: dentistry, dietetics, occupational therapy, physiotherapy, psychology, social work and speech pathology. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Recruitment and retention themes identified from the interview transcripts. RESULTS: Career opportunities and social and community connections were significant for both recruitment and retention of all the participant groups. Financial incentives were important for recruiting staff, while organisational management and policy were important for retaining staff. Health service resources were a specific issue for the recruitment of dentists, but were found to be a significant factor in the retention of all allied health staff. CONCLUSION: A number of strategies can be used by health care organisations in rural areas to recruit staff, including: career progression, mentoring and profession development, connecting people with social networks and providing financial remuneration. To maximise staff retention, it is important to ensure that there are career progression pathways within the organisation, and that organisational management and policy provides support and opportunities for staff. Staff also need to be included as part of a social network in the community.
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