Welcome Ryan - Rural Health Academic Network Coordinator

Meet Ryan! Originally from Albury, Ryan recently joined the Department of Rural Health in Shepparton as the Rural Health Academic Network (RHAN) Coordinator - Goulburn Valley Health. We spoke to Ryan to get to know him and his career in research.

Ryan McGrath, RHAN Coordinator - Goulburn Valley Health,  holds research roles at the University of Melbourne and Goulburn Valley Health in Shepparton.

How did you get into research and what’s your journey been like so far?

I trained as a physiotherapist at Charles Sturt University, where I first engaged in research through my honours degree.

I’m currently completing my PhD studies, exploring the experiences and practices of physiotherapists with clients who experience psychology distress.

I am particularly interested in the intersection of physical health and mental health.

Clinically, I practiced as a physiotherapist at Primary Care Connect in Shepparton in the refugee health team during the first two years of my PhD.

In September 2022, I started my Allied Health Research Knowledge and Translation Lead at Goulburn Valley Health and in January 2023, I began this role at the University of Melbourne, Department of Rural Health.

Can you please tell me more about that role and working with refugees?

As a refugee health physiotherapist, I worked closely with trauma councillors and refugee health nurses, providing physiotherapy care to cultural and linguistically diverse communities of Shepparton.

I would say, around ninety percent of my clients preferred to use an interpreter, so we required a team of various health and support workers to deliver the service.

What was interesting was that it became one of the main referral points for trauma councillors, whereas in the past it was from GPs.

I would consider myself to be a psychologically informed physiotherapist and during my in-depth assessments working with refugees, we would cover physical and mental health topics. During these conversations, histories of trauma abuse would sometimes be disclosed.

While this work was challenging, it was a privilege to work with the cultural and linguistically diverse communities of Shepparton to support their physical and mental health needs.

What is the work you’re doing at Goulburn Valley Health and the University of Melbourne?

My Allied Health Research and Knowledge Translation Lead role at Goulburn Valley Health is a Victorian Department of Health funded program that aims to embed early career researchers within a Victorian public health service.

I work in this position one day a week and work one day a week in my role at the University of Melbourne.

I dedicate the rest of my week to completing my PhD.

My roles at GV Health and the University are synergistic and aim to support GV Health clinicians engaged in research that is relevant to a rural community.

In these roles I support clinicians who are interested in doing small scale research projects, conduct research and training programs while working with other external stakeholders to support research capacity and culture at GV Health.

While I am available to support all staff, my focus is supporting Allied Health professionals.

In Australia, allied health research capacity and culture has not been prioritised as much as medicine and nursing.

Both my roles aim to address this issue and I hope to continue to build on the existing partnerships between GV Health and the University of Melbourne through this work.

You can find some of my work here.

Why is there a need to improve the research culture within allied health?

Improving the research culture can lead to two main benefits.

Firstly, the goal of enhancing research capacity and culture ultimately provides better care and improves patient outcomes- however, this takes time.

Secondly, research plays an important role in the recruitment and retention of allied health professionals by enabling them to engage in more transformative activities rather than just one-on-one clinical care.

Research encourages clinicians to consider a broader range of ways to improve a service or program, based on an intersection of research evidence and knowledge of communities.

The more research conducted; a greater understanding of the community is had.

What part about research do you love most?

While I enjoy the one-on-one aspect of being a clinician, if you’ve got systemic barriers impacting people’s health and wellbeing, I find it rewarding being involved in aiming to address them.

As a clinician, you work so closely with community members, you want to advocate for their needs and wellbeing, which can lead to research as an avenue of making change.

Without research I would be one frustrated clinician!

I shared some of these thoughts in a paper that I published in Physiotherapy Canada with a GV Health staff member.

In addition, I have also found working with clinicians on research to be extremely rewarding.

It has been a challenging few years for all health professionals throughout the pandemic.

In my experience research provides clinicians with another outlet, resulting in a higher retention rate of staff.

In fact, qualitative research by colleagues, Dr Claire Quilliam and Dr Kristen Glenister, similarly suggests that research opportunities may support retention of staff members in rural areas.

The Rural Health Academic Network (RHAN)

The Rural Health Academic Network (RHAN) is a health workforce initiative of the University of Melbourne UDRH, which has been partnering directly with rural health organisations since 2006.

The RHAN network provides crucial research leadership to our small rural health partners. The team consists of jointly funded academics based across five rural Victorian health services: Northeast Health Wangaratta, Numurkah Cobram Nathalia (NCN) Health Service, Albury Wodonga Health, Echuca Regional Health Service and Goulburn Valley Health.

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Goulburn Valley Health

Goulburn Valley Health is the main health service in the Goulburn Valley. Their services include a 24-hour Emergency Department, Surgery, Medical Services, Women’s and Children’s Services, Rehabilitation and Palliative Care, Mental Health, Outpatients, community-based health programs and services at Tatura and Rushworth.

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