Objective: To identify strategies local managers can use to optimise recruitment and retention of mental health staff in rural locations.
Design: Forty-one staff were interviewed about factors that attracted them to work in remote locations, their initial intentions and factors that encourage them to stay.
Setting: The former Far West Health Area of New South Wales.
Results: Overall job satisfaction was high (68%). Key attractors were rural lifestyle and environment. Family reasons, the field of work and the rural lifestyle were factors that keep staff in their positions. Some mentioned the desire to achieve professional goals and see projects completed. Many staff reported that their initial intentions to stay had remained the same (43.9%). Reasons for extended intention to stay were: greater career opportunities; a desire to complete professional goals; extension of positions; and personal factors. The most common reason for leaving was better career opportunities. Other reasons included: changes to personal commitments; heavy workloads or burnout; service management; and workplace politics. A large number of respondents mentioned key differences when comparing rural and metropolitan areas: more travel (greater distances); less service options for referral; greater spectrum of illnesses and conditions; more autonomy and responsibility.
Conclusions: Strategies to recruit and retain staff must take account of personal needs and aspirations. While there is room for state strategies to improve employment incentives, there is also considerable scope for local managers to improve the design and attractiveness of jobs.