The Rural Health Academic Network (RHAN) and Women in Research

This International Women's Day we celebrate the women in research, showcasing two Rural Health Academic Network (RHAN) coordinators within the Department of Rural Health; Rowan and Carol.

What is 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.

The Rural Health Academic Network (RHAN) spans across regional and rural Victoria and is embedded within our partnering health services.

As a network, this team works to support education and build research capacity in these services, undertaking a range of evaluations, service development projects and supporting the rural health workforce in research and professional development.

Through RHAN, rural health care practitioners have the support of both partners--the University and the health services—to deliver services for the local community.

RHAN projects and publications reflect the diversity of rural health and the individual clinical research and workforce priorities of our partner organisations.

The 'Theory of Change' diagram  highlights the vision and key strategies of RHAN.

Rural workforce development

Working with nursing, medicine, allied health and health administration disciplines in addition to local councils, primary health networks and community groups - RHAN has seen a sustained impact particularly in the area of workforce role development.

Each of these initiatives enhances the capacity of our rural populations to access timely and effective care.

Impactful projects have included:

  • Improved service delivery and models of care in aged care, intake, Aboriginal health and other areas
  • Nurse Practitioner education programs in mental health, aged care, critical care, palliative care and emergency care
  • Development of rural and isolated practice endorsed registered nurses (RIPERNs) to support after hours urgent care and research informing clinical practice using telehealth technology
  • Community and health service user input into local health care
  • Enhanced research programs and connections to statewide research activities
  • Development of community activities in food insecurity, housing, and others

Celebrating women in research this International Women’s Day

Meet Rowan O’Hagan

Rowan has worked in the RHAN team for three years and has a dual role between the University of Melbourne and Northeast Health Wangaratta. Rowan’s office and area of work is predominantly based in the regional town of Wangaratta, two and a half hours northeast of Melbourne.

Rowan O'Hagan, RHAN Academic, based at Northeast Health Wangaratta.

Rowan’s research career began in agricultural science and mammalian biochemistry -with a focus on pig physiology and growth. Having always had an interest in research, there are many aspects to the job that initially drew her in.

“I like working collaboratively with different groups of people and discussing new ideas. I’m interested in the learning process – I like the way a research project will come together, it’s a work of art and science when you take a proposal through from conception to the final journal publication,” says Rowan.

In this dual role, Rowan actively works to build research capacity at Northeast Health Wangaratta. She engages with staff undertaking research projects for the continuous improvement of their clinical work and health systems. To ensure the safety and quality of care, the health service monitors and benchmarks clinical indicators such as:

  • medication compliance
  • birthing outcomes
  • emergency presentations, and
  • hospital-acquired infections and pressure injuries.

To help strengthen the research culture and research governance at the hospital, Rowan runs education sessions and develops educational resources for clinicians. She supports various research projects by assisting with ethics approval and ensuring applications are thorough.

In this role, Rowan also supports both the Human Research Ethics Committee (HREC) and Research Committee at the hospital and has supported allied health students with placement research projects.

What International Women's Day means to Rowan…

IWD is a day of global solidarity for women where we celebrate our progress but also remember our sisters who do not have the same freedoms and opportunities. When structural barriers such as poverty, poor early education and gender discrimination are addressed, more women will be empowered to pursue careers in research and STEM and these disciplines will reap the benefit of greater diversity and innovation.

Meet Carol Reid

Joining RHAN in 2018, Carol is based at in Numurkah, covering the three health services under NCN Health in Numurkah, Cobram and Nathalia.

Carol has an extensive nursing and social work background where she has previously worked in child and family services.  She was encouraged to follow her passion and pursue a new career path in research through a former colleague and mentor.

Carol Reid, RHAN Academic, based at NCN Health Numurkah.

“I was curious about how we were making change so I got into the evaluation space, leading to projects and then research.”

Carol works closely with the health service and is embedded within their Numurkah base. It is identified by the health service what the needs are according to the strategic plan, which Carol then supports with a research lens.

She is currently working on an organisational trauma informed care strategy which is a five-year action plan developed by a group of staff members at NCN Health across their three sites. Carol is involved in leading the ethics application, developing an action plan and writing the research protocol.

Carol is also heavily involved with student placements if doing a non-clinical placement such as dietetics and nutrition. The students work on different community projects such as a kinder lunchbox analysis for example which Carol supports the students with the design of data collection and analysis.

Carol describes what she loves most about her role; “the innovation and leadership at the health service is exceptional. I really like the community focus.”

The RHAN network is embedded across regional and rural health services in Victoria such as NCN Health in Numurkah (pictured).

Learn more about the  Rural Health Academic Network (RHAN):

Learn more

More Information

Kristen Glenister