Asked about what personal attributes are important to help to improve rural healthcare, 2015 Rural Women of Influence finalist Michelle Thompson says, “Passion, tenacity and diplomacy are at the top of the list.
“They’re the main attributes that have helped me bring a diverse group of people together to help drive positive rural health outcomes.”
Since being recognised as a finalist in the Rural Category for the Women of Influence Awards last year, Michelle has drawn on her strengths to make even more of an impact across rural New Zealand.
As Chief Executive of the Rural Health Alliance Aotearoa New Zealand, Michelle led the drive to successfully secure extra government funding to develop a long term approach to improving mental health in rural areas.
“Statistics can be a bit patchy when it comes to illustrating mental health outcomes in rural, compared to urban, New Zealand but there are certainly some big factors at play for our rural communities that can mean mental health solutions might be a little different.
“Rural businesses (and therefore people) are more susceptible to elements of weather and the mood of the global market. They’re often more isolated, not just by proximity to people and services, but also due to lower levels of connectivity due to broadband and mobile phone coverage.”
Attracting healthcare clinicians to the regions still a challenge
Overall, Michelle says working in a rural setting can bring extra challenges, including attracting healthcare clinicians who want to live in provincial areas long term.
She says we need healthcare professionals to form long term relationships with those they care for and getting the right kind of staff in rural areas can be a tough task. However those who take up the challenge say it’s very rewarding.
“Rural health professional’s I work with really embody the number 8 wire of the New Zealand healthcare sector. They’re determined, excited to face a challenge and, often linked in to the business of farming themselves, form an important part of their local community”.
Asked about the balance between men and women in rural healthcare services, Michelle said that full-time rural general practitioners are more likely to be men, and while female general practitioners are highly valued, the support systems and rural livability in general, need to “step up” in order to attract and retain more female doctors.
“Strong rural voices are needed in all levels of New Zealand. The recent funding to improve mental health and addiction outcomes for rural people shows the government takes the well-being of the rural community seriously and we’re continuing to work collaboratively across the sector to make sure our issues are seen as a priority for the whole country.”
Know a woman like Michelle who’s making a positive impact in rural New Zealand?
We know there are many tenacious women who are creating change and making a difference in rural New Zealand and they deserve to be recognised.
Nominate the Rural woman of influence you know for the Rural category in the 2016 Women of Influence Awards.