Ok I need to straight up apologise for the 80s pop culture (and I use that last term loosely) reference. That was uncalled for…especially because this message might need to be heard most by those next gen naturopaths who weren’t even born when mullets had their first moment in the sun. I’ve been preparing for a conference where I’m speaking about naturopaths and their current pathways for accessing pathology results in Australia but relax that’s not wanted to share with you. I was reading yet more papers on the Australian naturopathic workforce…trying to find out a little more, who indeed are we? In among several important studies on this topic now there is an oldie but goody by Matthew Leach, which was based on ABS census data back in 2006 in which he revealed some big potential pointers for those naturopaths still trying to find ‘their place’:
His analysis of the workforce data spoke to distribution, population provider ratios (how many potential patients to each practising naturopath), average hours worked per week, average income etc.
In short….the answer might be to stop competing for the same suburban clients and for many more of us to, ‘Go West’!
I mean, move to & start practising in a remote or regional area. I’m fascinated by this whole topic. Not least because some of the loveliest, happiest and busiest practitioners I know are in such places – hey Stacey Curcio? Amanda Mullemeister? Sophie and Belinda? Rae Powys? Rian Smith? In 2006, only 22.8% of naturopaths reported working regionally or remotely but Matthew found these practitioners were busier & seeing more patients than their city slicker peers and he reasoned, this could simply be a result of ratios, fewer competing services and increased health care needs. If you add to this some thoughts from another one stepping further in these areas into the role of primary health care providers. Which is a response to the notorious gaps in rural health services. This reminds me of doctors I know who feel nostalgic about their past life as a ‘Country GP’. Which meant they were the one-stop-shop…Doc I need stitches. Done. Oh no, I’m in labour! Have no fear, I’m a good catch! Grand-dad doesn’t seem himself. I’ve known him for almost as long as you and sadly, I know you’re right. Anyway…stop the soft backing music to the latest RACGP feel good ad…but this could be you! Well not exactly…different skillset but you know what I mean.
I’m lucky enough to be in regular contact with a lot of regional and remote practitioners (as per previous name drops!) and they absolutely seem to share some things in common with the old country doctor. They become a key resource for whole families which extends across generations. They are embraced as a core, positive part of their community that, as its best self, always tries to take care of its own. And they know the reality of living this life: how local business is, what local issues are affecting their patients, access to food, green spaces, resources and all the local services, making their advice, real, sustainable, personal.
From my experience these regional practitioners are the ones also who put effort into their professional support networks. We saw a huge rural representation at the Australian Naturopathic Summit both years and I know a lot of my most active mentees are based remotely. Maybe us more metro naturopaths get lazy because we imagine being surrounded is the same as being connected, while our regional peers in reality are more engaged? Just a thought. Would love to hear more from some regional practitioners out there…wherever you are 🙂
I’m feeling a little ‘Go West’ myself!
I tell you which state has a lot of regional praccies – that’s WA! And for all you in the sunny west, you might like to know I’m heading over your way twice over the next few months. One is for the Rener Health Expo, which I have to say is a pretty remarkable & exciting program of presentations, that’s very much on message about communities looking after themselves! That’s on the 22nd May and the other is for the ACNEM’s mental health module in July, where the highly regarded psychiatrist Sanjeev Sharma, plus from the naturopathic contingency, Susan Hunter and myself will be presenting new content on improved assessment & management of a range of mental health conditions. For more information and contact details check out my live appearances page here.