The University of Newcastle
Department of Rural Health
Department of Rural Health


Research is a vital component of ensuring positive health outcomes for rural and regional Australians. It is a core activity for the University of Newcastle Department of Rural Health. Our research mission is to understand and support rural communities and their need for optimum quality, sustainable health care.

Key areas of research efforts are below:

Rural and Remote Health Workforce

For more information contact: Prof Jenny May

This area of research includes a focus on 'communities of practice' and the way health professional's work together in rural settings. There are many challenges to the sustainability of existing communities of practice and a need for new ones to be cultivated with the advent of Medicare Locals and the growing importance of the management of chronic disease. This research aims to understand the ways that communities of health professionals work together in a changing environment.

Publications include:

Smith T, Stone N, Bull R. Strengthening interprofessional practice. In A Textbook of Australian Rural Health, Liaw S-T, Kilpatrick S (Ed.). Australian Rural Health Education Network, Canberra, 2008. ISBN 978 0 9775687 2 7

Smith T, Jones P. Remote x-ray operator radiography: a case study in interprofessional rural clinical practice. Journal of Interprofessional Care 2007; 21(3): 289-302

Smith T, Stone N, Bull R, Chesters J, Waller S, Playford D, Fuller J. Australian Rural Health Education Network's position on interprofessional education and practice in health care.  Rural and Remote Health (Online), 2007, 7:866

Projects in this area include the investigation of factors affecting the recruitment and retention of health professionals in regional, rural and remote centres. The University of Newcastle Department of Rural Health has been a key player in the collection of data for the allied health workforce studies. Projects are ongoing in relation to the demographic characteristics and needs of the workforce in specific disciplines.

Publications include:

Brown L, Williams L, Capra S. Developing dietetic positions in rural areas: what are the key lessons? Rural and Remote Health (Online), 2012; [accepted for publication]

Keane S, Smith T, Lincoln M, Fisher K. Survey of the rural allied health workforce in New South Wales to inform recruitment and retention. Australian Journal of Rural Health 2011; 19(1): 38-44

Smith T, Fisher K, Keane S, Lincoln M. Comparison of the results of two rural allied health workforce surveys in the Hunter New England region of New South Wales: 2005 versus 2008; Australian Journal of Rural Health 2011; 19(3): 154-159

Brown L, Williams L, Capra S. Going rural but not staying long: recruitment and retention issues for the rural dietetic workforce in Australia.  Nutrition and Dietetics 2010; 67(4): 309-316

Meek R, Doherty S, Deans A. Factors influencing rural versus metropolitan work choices for emergency physicians. Emergency Medicine Australasia 2009; 21(4): 323-328

May J, Cooper R, Magin P, Critchley A.  Integrated models or mayhem?  Lessons learnt from three integrated primary health care entities in regional New South Wales.  Australian Health Review 2008; 32(4):595-604

Smith T, Cooper R, Brown L, Hemmings S, Greaves J. Profile of the rural allied health workforce in northern New South Wales and comparison with previous studies. Australian Journal of Rural Health 2008; 16(3): 158-163

Keane S, Smith T, Lincoln M, Wagner S, Lowe S. The rural allied health workforce study (RAHWS): background, rationale and questionnaire development. Rural & Remote Health (Online) 2008; 8: 1132

May J. Rural and Remote and Metropolitan Area 3: The forgotten RRMA.  Australia Journal of Rural Health 2007; 15(3): 216-217

May J, Jones P, Cooper R, Morrissey M, Kershaw G. GP perceptions of workforce shortage in a rural setting. Rural and Remote Health (Online), 2007, 7:720

Changes to the way that health care is delivered will require the renegotiation of interprofessional boundaries. This area of research focuses on the transfer of specific skills and competencies across professional boundaries, with an emphasis on appropriateness of care and patient safety.

Publications include:

Smith T, Fisher K. Self-reported competency and continuing education needs of limited license remote X-ray operators in New South Wales, Australia. Rural and Remote Health (Online) 2011 11: 1560 

Dennis S, May J, Perkins D, Zwar N, Sibbald B, Hasan I. What evidence is there to support skill mix changes between GPs, pharmacists and practice nurses in the care of elderly people living in the community? Australia and New Zealand Health Policy, 2009, 6:23

Hardy M, Snaith B, Smith T, Radiographer reporting of trauma images: United Kingdom experience and the implications for evolving international practice. The Radiographer 2008; 55(1): 16-19

Smith T, Yielder J, Ajibulu O, Caruana E. Progress towards advanced practice roles in Australia, New Zealand and the Western Pacific. Radiography 2008; 14(Suppl 1): e20-e23

Smith T, 'Skill transfer' and interprofessional boundaries in rural and remote radiography. Australian Journal of Rural Health 2007; 15(4): 273-274

Smith T, Baird M. Radiographers' role in radiological reporting: a model to support future demand. Medical Journal of Australia 2007; 186(12): 629-631

Work in this area includes models of care for people with eating disorders, which has involved gap analysis and the development of an interprofessional education program that evolved into a educational model to be delivered across multiple regional sites. The University of Newcastle Department of Rural Health has also been involved in the support and evaluation of GP entities in partnership with the North West Slopes Division of General Practice in the development of a GP entity named Peel Health. In addition, the role of pharmacists in medication reconciliation in the acute care setting is under investigation.

Publications include:

Brown L, Mitchell L, Williams L, Macdonald-Wicks L, Capra S. Private practice in rural areas? An untapped opportunity for dietitians. Australian Journal of Rural Health 2011; 19(4): 191-196

Brown L, Little F. Nourishing Networks: Using information technology and mentoring to promote interdisciplinary education and training in rural areas. In Larson A, Lyle D (Eds). A Bright Future for Rural Health: Evidence-Based Policy and Practice in Rural and Remote Australian Health Care. Australian Rural Health Education Network, April 2010, pp.82-84. ISBN 978 0 9775687 3 4

May J, Cooper R, Magin P, Critchley A.  Integrated models or mayhem?  Lessons learnt from three integrated primary health care entities in regional New South Wales.  Australian Health Review, November 2008; 32(4):595-604

Brown L, Capra S, Williams L.  A best practice dietetic service for rural patients with cancer undergoing chemotherapy: A pilot of a pseudo-randomised controlled trial.  Nutrition and Dietetics, 2008; 65(2): 175-180

Jones P, May J, Creighton A. Health service models. In A Textbook of Australian Rural Health, Liaw S-T, Kilpatrick S (Ed.). Australian Rural Health Education Network, Canberra, 2008. ISBN 978 0 9775687 2 7

Education and Training in a Rural Context

For more information contact: Dr Leanne Brown

Education of undergraduates, postgraduates and practising health professionals are core business for the University of Newcastle Department of Rural Health. This area of research focuses on evaluation of the teaching and learning for rural undergraduate students to ensure high quality outcomes. Students are based in University of Newcastle Department of Rural Health sites for short-term placements or year-long attachments. Evaluation of student outcomes is important to determine if the UDRH and RCTS programs are meeting their key objectives to increase and improve rural student placement. A current study being undertaken is focused on evaluating allied health students' rural placement experiences and postgraduate workplace outcomes.

Publications include:

Smith T, Traise P, Cook A.  The influence of a continuing education program on the image interpretation accuracy of rural radiographers, Rural and Remote Health (Online) 2009; 9: 1145

Smith T, Brown L, Cooper R.  A multidisciplinary model of rural allied health clinical-academic practice. Journal of Allied Health 2009; 38(4): 236-241

Evaluation of undergraduate interprofessional education is an ongoing focus for the University of Newcastle Department of Rural Health. Students are supported to work together and identify the skills and knowledge needed for team based care. The University of Newcastle Department of Rural Health has conducted interprofessional learning modules for rural based medical, nursing and allied health students since 2003 and continues to lead the way in interprofessional education for students on rural professional practice placements.

Publications include:

Smith T, Williams L, Lyons M, Lewis S. A Multiprofessional Learning Module on Ethical Healthcare and Professional Practice. Focus on Health Professional Education. 2005; 6(3): 21-23

Healthy Rural Communities

For more information contact: Dr Karin Fisher

Health outcomes and access to health care for indigenous Australians is an important focus. The Gomeroi gaaynggal Indigenous Mothers and Babies Program is an excellent example of research supported by community engagement. This is a collaborative project with the University of Newcastle's Mothers and Babies Research Centre, led by Professor Roger Smith, headed locally by Dr Kym Rae. The strength of the project is in the use and support of an arts health approach underpinned by a participatory action framework while investigating the developmental causes of renal disease among the Aboriginal population.

Publications include:

Rae K. Wearing someone else's shoes. Medical Humanities 2010; 36(1): 40-42

Fuery P, Smith R, Rae K, Burgess R, Fuery K.  Morality, duty and the arts in health: A project on Aboriginal underage pregnancy. Arts and  Health 2009;  1(1):36-47

Rae K, Smith R, Weatherall L, McKay P.  The birth of Gomeroi gaaynggal. Aboriginal and Islander Health Worker Journal  2009; 33(6): 9-11

Prevention plays an important role in primary health care. Health behaviours that require health interventions are often the result of lifestyle activities, such as smoking, lack of physical activity and a diet high in fat and salt. Research in this area also focuses on falls prevention for elderly Aboriginal Australians and obesity prevention messages in the community. This is an emerging area of research.

Health services research is concerned with the delivery of health care, the outcomes of the provision of care and consumer perspectives about access to health care services. The importance of consumer perspectives is demonstrated in projects such as the investigation of access to the needle syringe program and the use of advanced care planning.

Publications include:

May J, Grotowski M.  HPV vaccine catch up schedule: An opportunity for chlamydia screening.  Australian Family Physician 2008; 37(7): 529-530

Fisher K, Hussain R, Jamieson M, Minichiello V.  Syphilis and disadvantage in rural communities. International Journal of STD & AIDS. Letter to the editor, March 2008; 19(3): 215.

Rural Clinical Practice-based Research

For more information contact: Prof Jenny May

The UoNDRH supports a broad range of projects that explore the evidence base for clinical care.  The evidence-based management of acute asthma, the improvement of pain management in the emergency department and investigations into the role of cricoids pressure are key areas that the Rural Clinical Training and Support Program has been involved with.

Publications include:

Doherty S, Jones P, Stevens H, Davis L, Ryan N, Treeve V.  "Evidence-Based Implementation" of Paediatric Asthma guidelines in a Rural Emergency Department.  Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health 2007; 43: 611-616

Doherty S, Jones P, Davis L, Ryan N, Treeve V. Evidence-based implementation of adult asthma guidelines in the emergency department.  A controlled trial. Emergency Medicine Australasia 2007; 19: 31-38

Doherty S.  Evidence-based implementation of evidence-based guidelines.  International Journal of Healthcare Quality Assurance 2006; 19(1): 32-41

Doherty S, Jones P.  Use of an "evidence-based implementation" strategy to implement evidence-based care of asthma into rural district hospital Emergency departments.  Rural and Remote Health 6, 2006: 529.

Doherty S. Evidence-based medicine.  Arguments for and against.  Emergency Medicine Australasia 2005; 17: 307-313

Doherty S. The history of evidence-based medicine. Oranges, chloride of lime and leeches.  Barriers to teaching old dogs new tricks.  Emergency Medicine Australasia. 2005; 17: 314-321

The UoNDRH supports a broad range of projects driven by the need of clinicians to ask key research questions.

Publications include:

Trethewy C, Burrows J, Clausen D, Doherty S. Effectiveness of cricoid pressure in preventing gastric aspiration during rapid sequence intubation in the emergency department study protocol for a randomised controlled trial. Trials 2012; 13:17

Hansen K, Thom H, Rodda H, Price M, Jackson C, Bennetts S, Doherty S.  Factors influencing timely delivery of analgesia in emergency departments.  Emergency Medicine Australasia 2012; [in press]

Bennetts S, Cambell-Brophy E, Huckson S, Doherty S. Pain management in Australian emergency departments: Current practice, enablers, barriers and future directions. Emergency Medicine Australia 2012 [in press]

Tucker A, Trethewy CE. Lack of effect on blood alcohol level of swabbing venepuncture sites with 70% isopropyl alcohol. Emergency Medicine 2010; 22:9-12.

Pedersen A. Acute neck swelling: a diagnostic dilemma in a regional hospital. Emergency Medicine Australasia 2010; 22(3): 246-248

Doherty S. Prescribe systematic corticosteroids in acute asthma. British Medical Journal 2009; 338: 1-2

Doherty S, Davis L, Leschke P, Valpani A, Whitely E, Yarnold D, Stevens H.  Automated versus manual audit in the emergency department.  International Journal of Health Care Quality Assurance 2008; 21(7): 671-678

Shepherd MK, Trethewy CE,  JF Kennedy, L Davis. Helicopter use in Rural Trauma. Emergency Medicine 2008; 20: 494–499

Crowley E, Williams L, Roberts T, Jones P, Dunstan R. Evidence for a role of cow's milk consumption in chronic functional constipation in children: systematic review of literature from 1980 to 20006. Nutrition and Dietetics 2008:65(1):29-35

Doherty S.  Use of ipratropium bromide for acute asthma.  Emergency care evidence into practice series 2006.  National Institute of Clinical Studies.

For further information on UONDRH research please contact:

Associate Professor Tony Smith
Deputy Director (UDRH Program)
Phone:    +61 2 4055 1900