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Benefits and challenges to ophthalmology training via the Specialist Training Program


Jessup, B and Allen, P and Khanal, S and Baker-Smith, V and Barnett, T, Benefits and challenges to ophthalmology training via the Specialist Training Program, Australian Journal of Rural Health pp. 1-14. ISSN 1440-1584 (2022) [Refereed Article]

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Copyright Statement

2022. The Authors. Australian Journal of Rural Health published by John Wiley & Sons Australia, Ltd on behalf of National Rural Health Alliance Ltd. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) License ( which permits non-commercial use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed.

DOI: doi:10.1111/ajr.12941


Introduction: The Specialist Training Program (STP) is a commonwealth funding initiative to support specialist medical training positions in regional, rural and remote areas, and in private settings. The program helps to improve the skills and distribution of the specialist medical workforce by providing trainees experience of a broader range of healthcare settings.

Objective: To examine the benefits and challenges of ophthalmology training delivered by the STP in regional, rural, remote, and/or private settings across Australia.

Design: Qualitative design involving semi-structured in-depth interviews with thirty-two participants experienced in the delivery of ophthalmology training at STP posts including ophthalmology trainees (n = 8), STP supervisors and clinical tutors (n = 16), and other stakeholders (n = 8).

Findings: Training delivered at STP posts was reportedly beneficial for ophthalmology trainees, their supervisors and the broader community given it enabled exposure to regional, rural, remote and private settings, access to unique learning opportunities, provided workforce support and renewal, and affordable ophthalmic care. However, all participants also reported challenges including difficulties achieving work/life balance, unmet training expectations, a lack of professional support, and financial and administrative burden. Malalignment between trainee preferences for STP posts, low STP literacy and limited regional, rural and remote training experiences were also seen as missed opportunities to foster future rural ophthalmic workforce development.

Discussion: The STP improves access to ophthalmic care in underserved populations while enabling valuable rural and/or private practice exposure for medical specialist trainees and workforce support for supervising ophthalmologists.

Conclusion: Efforts are needed to improve the quality of training experiences provided at STP posts and post sustainability. Although research is needed to investigate the longer-term benefits of the STP to rural and/or private workforce recruitment and retention, RANZCO should develop further regional, rural and remote STP posts to help realise future rural practice intention amongst ophthalmology trainees.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:medical specialist, ophthalmology, rural health, vocational training, workforce
Research Division:Biomedical and Clinical Sciences
Research Group:Ophthalmology and optometry
Research Field:Ophthalmology
Objective Division:Health
Objective Group:Specific population health (excl. Indigenous health)
Objective Field:Rural and remote area health
UTAS Author:Jessup, B (Dr Belinda Jessup)
UTAS Author:Allen, P (Dr Penny Allen)
UTAS Author:Barnett, T (Associate Professor Tony Barnett)
ID Code:154162
Year Published:2022
Deposited By:UTAS Centre for Rural Health
Deposited On:2022-11-04
Last Modified:2023-01-04

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