We can take education to the people, rather than expecting people to move for education.
Nationally there are challenges retaining health professionals in rural and regional areas. Otago Polytechnic's Bachelor of Midwifery programme is offered across the lower North Island and lower South Island with face to face tutorials in regional centres, facilitated online learning, and block courses at Wellington and Dunedin. This allows students, often women with families, to study in their own community, retaining their support structures. Was this model also effective at retaining midwives in the regions?
Data was collected on learner retention in the programme, graduate numbers between 2011 and 2016 and subsequent retention in the midwifery profession both locally and nationally. Results indicated that the blended delivery model of education led to a high retention in the regions on graduation. Graduates were retained in the midwifery profession and almost 70% stayed in the regions.
This case study supports immersive education in the regions as a strategy to retain health professionals in rural and regional New Zealand. It also emphasises the importance of collaborating with local health practitioners to meet the professional needs of the regions, and to provide experiential learning opportunities for the students. Key to the success of this delivery is that both staff and students are immersed locally, but also integrated with the full cohort of Bachelor of Midwifery students from Whanganui to Southland; and similarly off-campus staff are integrated with the full midwifery team and teach across the programme.