RuralHealthTogether – rural health workforce digital self-care and wellbeing initiative

Laura Hardaker1

Workforce Engagement Manager, Rural Doctors Network (RDN)


In 2018 NSW faced an ongoing, significant drought. Evidence suggested stretched rural healthcare practitioners faced increased mental health patient presentations, an increase in their own mental health stress and a decline in their own sense of wellbeing.

RDN observed the impact on wellbeing of rural health professionals and committed to respond, in partnership, to support wellbeing and self-care to sustain a healthy workforce as they support drought affected communities.

#RuralHealthTogether is a multi-modal digital platform to support rural health professionals through the aggregation of self-care information and tailored support resources. launched in September 2018 via social media campaigns and included messages of support from clinicians, politicians, rural health advocates and administrators.

Responding to evidence, RDN sought to rapidly deploy:

  • support for rural health professional wellbeing and capability.
  • collaboration with content providers.
  • provision of easily accessible resources.

Following feedback from the workforce, organisations, including CRANAplus, are providing workshops promoting positive mental health and resilience to support practitioners; and education focussed on upskilling practitioners to provide enhanced mental health care during crises such as the drought.

In the first six months of operation #RuralHealthTogether results included:

  • 820 practitioners across Australia accessing content
  • Over 50% accessing self-care and news content
  • 70% of access resulting from social media or online referral

Rural health professionals have accessed #RuralHealthTogether for wellbeing and self‐care information and support.

RDN’s program evaluation framework, partnered with digital media experts, will:

  • inform the next iteration of support messages and targeted initiatives
  • further explore social media’s role supporting rural mental health professional wellbeing.

#RuralHealthTogether’s messaging and support are relevant beyond the current crisis and RDN will continue to advocate and facilitate promotion of self-care for the rural health workforce.


Dr Laura Hardaker is a qualified occupational therapist with a PhD in mental health. She worked clinically for over thirteen years and now works for the Rural Doctors Network as their workforce engagement manager. Laura is passionate about the health and wellbeing of all individuals across Australia and her work at RDN has focused on supporting the health workforce by promoting access, quality and sustainable health services. Through the advancement of Rural Health Pro, Laura continues to work on connecting health professionals across Australia.