Introduction This paper reports on the findings of the Nursing and Midwifery Exchange Program, initiated to promote rural and remote nursing and midwifery, and to facilitate clinical skills development and clinical collaboration between health services in Queensland, Australia. The project was undertaken over an 18-month period in one state of Australia, offering structured, temporary exchange of personnel between metropolitan and rural health services. Background Globally, there is an increasing awareness of nursing shortages, and with it, the need to ensure that nurses and midwives are prepared for specialist roles and practice. This is particularly important in rural and remote areas, where there are pre-existing barriers to access to services, and difficulties in attracting suitably qualified, permanent staff. Methods A mixed methods approach to the evaluation was undertaken with two cohorts. One cohort was the nurses and midwives who participated in the exchange (n = 24) and the other cohort were managers of the participating health services (n = 10). The nurses and midwives who participated in the exchange were asked to complete a questionnaire that included questions related to embeddedness and job satisfaction. The managers participated in a Delphi series of interviews. Results Those who participated in exchange reporting a higher score on the reported degree of understanding of rural client, which was accompanied with a moderate-to-large effect size estimate (d = 0.61). Nurses/midwives in the exchange group reported higher scores on their perceptions of aspects of their home community that would be lost if they had to leave, which was accompanied with a large effect size (d = 0.83). Overall, NMEP was reported by the participants to be a positive way to improve professional development opportunities for nurses and midwives. The findings also show the program supported practical collaboration and raised the profile of nursing and midwifery in rural areas. Conclusion Exchange programs support clinical and professional development, raising the awareness of different contexts of practice and related skills requirements, and thereby supporting a greater understanding of different nursing roles. In the light of increasingly complex care required by patients with chronic conditions being managed in community-based services, programs such as NMEP provide the opportunity to build collaborative networks between referring and referral centres as well as contribute to the ongoing skills development.
- Nursing and Midwifery Exchange Program
- Nurse Education
- health promotion