IN WHAT is an Australian and New Zealand first,23 trainee psychiatrists have been selected to take part in a program in which they live, train and practice in country WA from internship through to fellowship.
Led by the WA Country Health Service (WACHS), 20 trainees started the Rural Psychiatry Training WA pathway in February, with eight based in the South West, six in the Great Southern, four in the Kimberley and one in each of the Mid West and Wheatbelt.
A further three of the program's participants are scheduled to resume their training in August in Bunbury and Albany.
WACHS executive director mental health Paula Chatfield said the program was helping to improve mental health care in country communities and strengthen the State's regional mental health workforce.
"Working in tandem with senior rural psychiatrists who provide mentorship and support, trainees are able to access development across acute clinical settings, child and adolescent services and consultation liaison," Ms Chatfield said.
"The program incorporates other rotations including adult psychiatry, older-age psychiatry, addiction and community mental health services."
Ms Chatfield said the program gave trainees the chance to develop their experience and clinical expertise in diverse communities - an opportunity they wouldn't usually get in a metropolitan area.
"This cohort is trailblazing a new era of country healthcare, where our workforce is not only growing but is specially trained to meet the diverse and unique needs of country communities," she said.
"And they'll be learning from the best educators and specialists in country WA."
Each participant who completes their training placement in a regional location is provided with the opportunity to stay at their chosen site for up to five years to obtain fellowship.
The program is accredited by the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP).In addition to this new training initiative, the WACHS employs 42 full-time equivalent psychiatrists to provide mental health services to the State's regional and remote areas.
Recognising the recruitment of healthcare practitioners in WA's country areas could be difficult - and noting the global workforce challenges - Ms Chatfield said in instances where a regional or remote vacancy arose, the organisation utilised short-term and locum arrangement to backfill and ensure continuity of care.
"We also engage clinical psychologists, Aboriginal mental health workers and other mental health specialists to further support mental health services in country WA," Ms Chatfield said.
WACHS said further psychiatry posts in rural and remote areas are planned.
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