Rural health career promotion tours help grow future health workforce

Over the next two weeks, 32 tertiary health students (four teams of eight tertiary students) will be touring the country to promote health careers to over 2000 rural school pupils as part of the New Zealand Rural General Practice Network’s (Network) concerted effort to grow a robust future health workforce.  

In groups, the tertiary students will visit rural schools in Canterbury, Southland & Otago, Waikato, and Northland to share their knowledge and experience studying health and inspire the students to pursue careers in health.  

In this first round of school visits for the year, the students will be visiting 38 schools including several schools we’ve haven’t visited before, particularly in areas with higher populations of Māori students. 

Around 300 year 9-13 pupils will also be visited at schools in Northland, including two Kura Kaupapa Māori, by tertiary students from the Grassroots Rural Health Club during their noho marae. 

During the visits, the students will host interactive health career workshops giving pupils hands-on experience with medical equipment with the aim of inspiring them to study health when they leave school.  

The students will share information about the range of health disciplines they study, which this year includes medicine, nursing, dentistry, audiology, psychology, and physiotherapy.  

Through stories and advice, the students will reveal not only the opportunities in health but also showcase health as a positive and viable career pathway for rural young people no matter where they live. 

Our hope is that after the rural health career sessions, pupils will feel equipped to make informed decisions about future careers in health.  

The rural school visits are a renowned activity of the Rural Health Careers Promotion Programme, led by the Network in partnership with Students of Rural Health Aotearoa (SoRHA) and funded by the Ministry of Health. 

This year 150 tertiary students applied to be involved in the rural school visits which provide a valuable opportunity for them to return to their own schools and feel empowered by sharing their own experiences.  

During these trips they will also be visiting several local health providers to meet with health professionals and learn about the reality of rural community health. 

These experiences help the tertiary students foster connections within rural communities where they may consider working when they graduate.  

This programme is integral to the Network’s efforts to address the chronic health workforce shortages throughout New Zealand, which are being felt acutely in rural areas. 

Through the NZLocums & NZMedJobs team, the Network recruits international doctors and nurse practitioners, for short and long-term placements, which help provide immediate support for under-staffed rural communities. 

However, the Network acknowledges that the long-term solution to this crisis requires us to train more doctors here in New Zealand and prepare them to work rurally where they are needed most. 

Through the Rural Health Careers Promotion programme, the Network’s goal is to ensure that we have an enthusiastic, resilient, and robust rural health workforce in the future.  

This year there are another six rural school tours in the pipeline for August and November with 80 possible schools to be visited during this time.  

The New Zealand Rural General Practice Network is transitioning to the new collective organisation Hauora Taiwhenua Rural Health Network, which launches in Parliament on Tuesday 28 June 2022.  

SoRHA will become a chapter of Hauora Taiwhenua and will continue to run the Rural Health Careers Promotion Programme with the support of a larger and more connected rural organisation.