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Benefits and challenges to ophthalmology training via the Specialist Training Program

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-21, 14:46 authored by Belinda JessupBelinda Jessup, Allen, P, Khanal, S, Baker-Smith, V, Anthony Barnett

Introduction: The Specialist Training Program (STP) is a commonwealth funding initiative to support specialist medical training positions in regional, rural and remote areas, and in private settings. The program helps to improve the skills and distribution of the specialist medical workforce by providing trainees experience of a broader range of healthcare settings.

Objective: To examine the benefits and challenges of ophthalmology training delivered by the STP in regional, rural, remote, and/or private settings across Australia.

Design: Qualitative design involving semi-structured in-depth interviews with thirty-two participants experienced in the delivery of ophthalmology training at STP posts including ophthalmology trainees (n = 8), STP supervisors and clinical tutors (n = 16), and other stakeholders (n = 8).

Findings: Training delivered at STP posts was reportedly beneficial for ophthalmology trainees, their supervisors and the broader community given it enabled exposure to regional, rural, remote and private settings, access to unique learning opportunities, provided workforce support and renewal, and affordable ophthalmic care. However, all participants also reported challenges including difficulties achieving work/life balance, unmet training expectations, a lack of professional support, and financial and administrative burden. Malalignment between trainee preferences for STP posts, low STP literacy and limited regional, rural and remote training experiences were also seen as missed opportunities to foster future rural ophthalmic workforce development.

Discussion: The STP improves access to ophthalmic care in underserved populations while enabling valuable rural and/or private practice exposure for medical specialist trainees and workforce support for supervising ophthalmologists.

Conclusion: Efforts are needed to improve the quality of training experiences provided at STP posts and post sustainability. Although research is needed to investigate the longer-term benefits of the STP to rural and/or private workforce recruitment and retention, RANZCO should develop further regional, rural and remote STP posts to help realise future rural practice intention amongst ophthalmology trainees.


Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists


Publication title

Australian Journal of Rural Health






School of Health Sciences


John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Place of publication


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© 2022. The Authors. Australian Journal of Rural Health published by John Wiley & Sons Australia, Ltd on behalf of National Rural Health Alliance Ltd. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) License ( which permits non-commercial use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed.

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  • Open

Socio-economic Objectives

Rural and remote area health; Other health not elsewhere classified

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