Rural health workforce training in New Zealand: Help and hindrance to sustainability and high quality care

Miss Jane George1,2, Ms Brittany Jenkins1, Dr Brendan Marshall1,3

1West Coast District Health Board, Greymouth, New Zealand, 2Auckland University of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand, 3University of Otago, Christchurch, New Zealand


Aim/Objectives: To critically review progress and potential regarding pre and post-entry training strategy, policy, and pathways for the West Coast rural health workforce in terms of contributions to workforce sustainability and high quality care. Findings will inform ongoing research, inter-sectorial policy, collaborative ways of working, and development of alternate evidence-based training models.

Background: The West Coast of the South Island in New Zealand boasts the most rural and remote health district nationally and reflects rural challenges worldwide. The West Coast District Health Board (WCDHB) is the major provider arm for the region’s health services and is committed to growing and developing a sustainable workforce poised to provide fit-for-purpose care within an innovative care model. Despite local strategies, initiatives, and investment, a number of factors continue to influence the ultimate goal of training a sustainable workforce capable of delivering high quality rural care.

Methods: To complete a critical review of relevant peer-reviewed articles and informal publications to determine factors that may ‘help’ and ‘hinder’ the above workforce goal.

Conclusions: While progress has been made with regard to pre and post-entry training programmes for New Zealand’s rural health workforce, a number of barriers appear to continue to hinder progress. Despite national strategy and other initiatives that have helped prioritise development of New Zealand’s rural health workforce, fragmented decision making may be hindering outcomes. A collaborative and comprehensive workplan may be required to ensure sustainability of this fragile workforce, and equal outcomes for people living in New Zealand’s most rural and remote region.


Jane George is a Registered Clinical Social Worker and Associate Director of Allied Health, Scientific and Technical Workforces at the West Coast DHB.  Her Master of Social Welfare examined effective supports for those who frequently attend Emergency Departments and her Doctor of Health Science research will explore the challenges and opportunities for the recruitment and retention of Allied Health staff in rural and remote areas.  Jane is a Fellow of the Australasian College of Health Service Management, and a contributor and reviewer for the Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work journal.