Changing the landscape of our rural workforce – Establishing a network of Burns Link Therapists for Country South Australia – the (not so) secret to our success

Mrs Joanne Lawson1, Ms Kathryn Heath, Ms Ruth Adamson, Rochelle  Kurmis2

1Country Health South Australia, Adelaide, Australia, 2The Burns Unit – Royal Adelaide Hospital, Adelaide, Australia


Between 2004 – 2012, the Royal Adelaide Hospital Burns Service and the Women’s & Children’s Hospital Burns Service experienced an increase in referrals of patients with a burn injury from regional areas of South Australia. The RAH experienced a 19% increase whilst the WCH had an increase of around 60%.

Given the specialised nature of burns treatment, there are identified inherent treatment problems in a regional health setting¹. The State-wide Rehabilitation Service Plan 2009-2017 included a principle to “Develop state-wide specialised interdisciplinary rehabilitation service teams that work across all care settings for the management of burns… ” And “Outreach services will be provided to regional and country areas”².  From this, the “Burns Link Therapist” program evolved.

The development of the program aimed to address outreach services for regional burns patients in a novel yet contemporary way. The program was primarily designed to provide evidence based, burns specific training for a locally based therapist (OT or PT). This facilitates early referral for the provision of therapy, locally, and with the aid of technology provides ongoing management.

In the first two years of the program, 210 occasions of service (OOS) were provided and 180,000km of travel were saved by patients of the burns units³.

By the end of 2017, 15 therapists had been trained and 736 occasions of service⁴ had been provided. Local burns link therapists have a high level of confidence & competence in providing the service. Strong links forged with metropolitan counterparts support this confidence.

This is our story of success.


Jo Lawson – A physiotherapist with 20 years experience across regional and metro SA and NSW as well as the UK. Currently supporting the team of Physiotherapists working across Country Health South Australia with a focus on workforce planning, service re-design and supporting regional staff to maintain and build strong, effective and contemporary clinical skills.