Allied Health Professionals working in remote or rural practice settings are often required to perform a pecialist Generalist role. While we are using the term Specialist Generalist, there are many terms for this role including: Expert Generalist; Professional Generalist; and Advanced Generalist. Regardless of the title, the role involves advanced general clinical and non-clinical professional skills. While this is not a service delivery model per say, delivering services as a Specialist Generalist is a central component of remote and rural allied health service delivery.
In terms of clinical skills, the broad range of conditions, and ages of the client group demands ‘specialist generalist’ skills with a breadth and depth of knowledge to successfully manage such a diverse caseload.
Additionally, Allied Health Professionals working in remote and rural settings tend to have flexible role boundaries with tasks shared across professions in a trans-disciplinary model of service delivery. Often they will respond to issues outside of their agency, agenda or mandate that would normally be left to colleagues or other occupational groups who may not be available in the area or at that time. This generalism is appropriate, both because it is the most efficient way of overcoming a lack of specialist resources, and because it is most culturally compatible with rural life.
The professional role of Allied Health Professionals in rural and remote areas, and the professional skills needed to fulfil this role, extends far beyond the clinical arena. It may include administration, management, education and research, to name just a few. The administrative component of the position involves the usual record keeping, collation of client related data, preparation of reports, and the planning and designing of new initiatives There are a myriad of additional non clinical tasks include documenting the extent of disability in communities, participating in and encouraging the development and planning of appropriate rehabilitation services, educating and advocating for Indigenous people with disabilities and developing valid processes for identifying community needs.
Benefits of Specialist Generalist Service Delivery
For the clinician, working as a Specialist Generalist provides an opportunity to develop advanced clinical and professional skills across all areas of practice. As well providing a strong skill base, this gives clinicians the chance to experience all practice areas and identify areas of interest for potential later specialisation.
For the client, Specialist Generalist Allied Health Practitioners can manage a diverse range of presentations and conditions. This provides greater access to appropriate care within the community and in some instances reduces the need for specialist referral.
Specialist Generalist Practice & You
Think about your practice in a remote or rural setting:
- Does your role require Specialist Generalist skills?
- How are you developing these skills? Where you can seek support?
- How does a Specialist Generalist service delivery model affect clients?
- Sheppard L. Guest editorial: Rural and remote physiotherapy: Its own discipline. Australian Journal of Rural Health, vol. 6, pp. 173-174; 2005.