How Jeanie is integrating dental workers into regional and remote communities to improve rural healthcare in South Australia – with new Streaky Bay Dentist and recent Graduate, Dr Penny Teo

In many situations, the reason behind difficulty in attracting workers to rural places is because they don’t know about the benefits of living there and cannot integrate effectively with the community.

The lack of community integration is where rural areas lose the prospect of hiring dental workers from metropolitan areas – and from keeping them in the rural towns.

Dr Penny Teo, one of the new dentists at Streaky Bay, has always been interested in the rural sector but had lots of questions about how it could work for her. When she met Jeanie’s CEO, Dr Cindy Dennis in 2020 she began to see how the Rural Workforce Integration program would support her choice to work in a rural area.

“When we first started, I was asked about my interests and preferences in dentistry, as there are a lot of different areas,” reflects Dr Penny.

“We arranged a visit to Eyre Peninsula so I could see the town and meet Dr Carol to chat about the dental work and clinic here.

“What I love about Jeanie’s program is it’s so tailor-made, and what I’m doing now are the things I’m really interested in. It’s quite rare that graduates can do so much straight away.”

Dr Penny travels to Wudinna once a fortnight to visit the patients there, and she says she values providing care to different populations and different communities that struggle to access quality healthcare.

What does Dr Penny value about having Dr Carol as her mentor?

“Dr Carol is inspiring. She has been here for 24 years, so there is a lot to learn from her being the sole practitioner and owner – it’s a wonderful experience.”

What key skills has Dr Penny already developed as part of this program?

Dr Penny outlines that most graduates start out with simple cases in their first year of working and limited time to practice – especially if they’re in metro areas.

“This program has exposed me to more clinical work, especially with more complex cases with the oversight of Dr Carol. It’s a greater learning curve, and it’s a quicker way to get clinical experience and build up your competency.”

Why would Dr Penny recommend this program to other students and graduates?

“I had a lot of concerns about rural positions before I started working here – such as adapting to the community, wondering if there’s enough support and if I’d receive the same, if not better, experience than I would in metro areas.

“I have had ample support throughout the program – not just in my dentistry journey, but also in learning and adapting to living here. Between the program and Dr Carol, I have received support and skills that are invaluable, and I don’t know where I’d find those elsewhere.”

The Rural Workforce Integration program is offered by Jeanie to organisations who employ skilled workforce in rural locations, helping new workforce build connections and competencies quickly.

Jeanie’s workshops and Rural Areas Experiences successfully attract professionals to rural career opportunities. They now help organisations develop retention strategies.

To learn more, contact us here to see how our program can benefit your organisation, and in turn your rural community.

Read more about the Rural Workforce Integration here.

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