Technology's relationship to issues connected to retention: A focus on rural mental health practitioners
Deborah J. Meyer, Ohio University, United States
Ohio University . Awarded
The retention of mental health professionals stands as a major problem in rural areas. Although a number of studies have examined the retention of rural allied health professionals and physicians, few, if any, have looked specifically at rural mental health providers. Two major contributing factors cited in the literature are (1) isolation of practitioners (both personal and geographic) and (2) lack of educational activities for professional development and continuing education. One solution suggested in the literature is the use of technology to address the needs of rural practitioners such as isolation, little or no access to experts and consultants, lack of peer support, and difficulty obtaining education and career development programs.
This study examined (1) technology use and expertise in relationship to job satisfaction and (2) the difference in job satisfaction between mental health providers who state that they plan to remain in rural practice and those who plan to leave within two years. Three hundred and twenty rural mental health providers in southeast Ohio were surveyed, of which 163 returned usable surveys.
The study did find a significant, but weak, relationship between technology use and expertise and job satisfaction, but no significant difference in job satisfaction between those who plan to stay and those who plan to leave their rural practice within the next two years. The study found that, despite the fact that over 90% of respondents have access to both a computer and the Internet, they are not using them to communicate with friends or peers nor are they accessing professional resources and educational programs via the Internet or other distance technology. Two other factors emerged that influence job satisfaction, household income and years in rural practice, neither of them cited as significant contributors in the retention literature. This study raises questions about the use of technology as a tool to improve job satisfaction and thus retention. This study consisted mostly of “survivors” since just 13 of the 163 indicated that they plan to leave. A study with a greater mix or that tracked those who have left, would add valuable insight to this issue.
Meyer, D.J. Technology's relationship to issues connected to retention: A focus on rural mental health practitioners. Ph.D. thesis, Ohio University.
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