Support for rural health workers' wellbeing during pandemic

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nib foundation has announced it is providing NSW Rural Doctors Network (RDN) with $230,000 to develop self-care and wellbeing resources for health professionals in remote, rural and regional communities.

The foundation said healthcare workers in rural and remote communities face particular challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Research suggests the rate of access to mental health services in rural and remote communities is just 20 per cent of those who access equivalent services in metropolitan areas.

RDN CEO Richard Colbran said the support was timely, with rural and remote healthcare workers in Australia needing to look out for their wellbeing now more than ever.

"For some time, rural healthcare workers have been caring for patients presenting with mental health conditions brought on by living through long-term drought and then bushfires," said Mr Colbran.

“Now the global pandemic of COVID-19 has placed more pressure on these workers. As integral parts of small communities, rural healthcare workers have little time to focus on their self-care.

"It's important that we look after the professionals who are caring for everyone else and often living away from their support network of family and close friends.”

nib foundation said the partnership will allow RDN to grow avenues of support to rural healthcare workers and help them build social and professional connections.

"A series of wellbeing and self-care initiatives will be developed to address some key mental health enablers often experienced by healthcare workers in remote and rural communities, such as resilience, mindfulness, social connection and professional relationships," said Mr Colbran.

The resources and activities will be available to healthcare professionals through RDN's online platform, Rural Health Pro, that connects people and organisations who care about keeping rural communities healthy.

nib foundation Executive Officer, Amy Tribe, said it is vital all healthcare workers have access to support services to maintain their mental health, no matter where they work.

"Through greater accessibility to targeted self-care and wellbeing information, support networks and resources, healthcare workers can prioritise their health and wellbeing, which is essential to the sustainability and retention of the rural health workforce," said Ms Tribe.

"We’re proud to support these wellbeing initiatives as we believe it's important that our healthcare professionals take care of themselves and are supported to do their jobs well so that all Australians, wherever they may be, can continue to access quality healthcare services,” she added.