JCU Pharmacy students stay in the regions
James Cook University’s drive to get more health professionals working in rural and remote areas is paying off – with JCU Pharmacy students much more likely to work outside of major cities after they graduate.
Dr Aaron Drovandi from JCU’s College of Medicine & Dentistry led a study analysing where JCU Pharmacy graduates ended up working.
It found two-thirds of Pharmacy graduates are working in regional, rural and remote areas.
He said pharmacists in Australia are providing an expanding scope of health care services including vaccinations, opioid substitution programs, wound care, and medication management reviews.
But supplying and maintaining an adequate rural and remote health workforce has been a long-standing, worldwide challenge.
“This results in poorer health outcomes for those living in rural and remote communities, who have higher levels of chronic disease, injury and infection, and poorer mental health outcomes compared to their urban counterparts,” said Dr Drovandi.
All areas outside major cities in Australia are classified as regional, rural or remote, including Townsville and Cairns.
The researchers looked at where all 973 JCU students who have graduated from the program between 2002 and 2018 ended up working - 640, or more than 65 per cent, practiced within Queensland in 2019.
“In addition, compared to other Australian Pharmacy graduates practicing in Queensland, JCU graduates had significantly higher odds of practicing in areas with greater social disadvantage and in rural and remote locations. This means they are going where they are needed, as intended,” said Dr Drovandi.
He said many graduates are returning to their hometowns or similar settings.
“From 822 domestic James Cook University graduates that we have data for, more than 84 per cent were from a regional, rural or remote area, and two-thirds of these graduates practiced in settings with the same or more rural and remote classification,” said Dr Drovandi.
He said the study shows regional pharmacy schools have the potential to attract and retain graduates in regional, rural and remote areas, including disadvantaged and/or rural towns.
“JCU’s school of Pharmacy was specifically established in 1999 to attract and train pharmacy students from rural and remote settings, and to have them practice in these settings after graduation.
“On these results it looks as if the program has been a success,” said Dr Drovandi.
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