Work challenges negatively affecting the job satisfaction of early career community mental health professionals working in rural Australia: findings from a qualitative study
The Journal of Mental Health Training, Education and Practice
Article publication date: 18 April 2018
Issue publication date: 16 May 2018
Some of Australia’s most severe and protracted workforce shortages are in public sector community mental health (CMH) services. Research identifying the factors affecting staff turnover of this workforce has been limited. The purpose of this paper is to identify work factors negatively affecting the job satisfaction of early career health professionals working in rural Australia’s public sector CMH services.
In total, 25 health professionals working in rural and remote CMH services in New South Wales (NSW), Australia, for NSW Health participated in in-depth, semi-structured interviews.
The study identified five work-related challenges negatively affecting job satisfaction: developing a profession-specific identity; providing quality multidisciplinary care; working in a resource-constrained service environment; working with a demanding client group; and managing personal and professional boundaries.
These findings highlight the need to provide time-critical supports to address the challenges facing rural-based CMH professionals in their early career years in order to maximise job satisfaction and reduce avoidable turnover.
Overall, the study found that the factors negatively affecting the job satisfaction of early career rural-based CMH professionals affects all professionals working in rural CMH, and these negative effects increase with service remoteness. For those in early career, having to simultaneously deal with significant rural health and sector-specific constraints and professional challenges has a negative multiplier effect on their job satisfaction. It is this phenomenon that likely explains the high levels of job dissatisfaction and turnover found among Australia’s rural-based early career CMH professionals. By understanding these multiple and simultaneous pressures on rural-based early career CMH professionals, public health services and governments involved in addressing rural mental health workforce issues will be better able to identify and implement time-critical supports for this cohort of workers. These findings and proposed strategies potentially have relevance beyond Australia’s rural CMH workforce to Australia’s broader early career nursing and allied health rural workforce as well as internationally for other countries that have a similar physical geography and health system.
The authors acknowledge the CMH professionals who generously gave their time to participate in this study and the NSW rural LHDs that approved its undertaking.
Cosgrave, C., Maple, M. and Hussain, R. (2018), "Work challenges negatively affecting the job satisfaction of early career community mental health professionals working in rural Australia: findings from a qualitative study", The Journal of Mental Health Training, Education and Practice, Vol. 13 No. 3, pp. 173-186. https://doi.org/10.1108/JMHTEP-02-2017-0008
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