Understanding Health Workers' Job Preferences to Improve Rural Retention in Timor-Leste: Findings from a Discrete Choice Experiment
Eozenou, Patrick Hoang-Vu
Zaman, Rashid U.
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Laks, J., Smitz, M., Witter, S., Lemiere, C., Eozenou, P., Lievens, T., Zaman, R., Engelhardt, K. & Hou, X. (2016) Understanding Health Workers' Job Preferences to Improve Rural Retention in Timor-Leste: Findings from a Discrete Choice Experiment. PLOS ONE, 11(11):e0165940.
Background Timor-Leste built its health workforce up from extremely low levels after its war of independence, with the assistance of Cuban training, but faces challenges as the first cohorts of doctors will shortly be freed from their contracts with government. Retaining doctors, nurses and midwives in remote areas requires a good understanding of health worker preferences. Methods The article reports on a discrete choice experiment (DCE) carried out amongst 441 health workers, including 173 doctors, 150 nurses and 118 midwives. Qualitative methods were conducted during the design phase. The attributes which emerged were wages, skills upgrading/specialisation, location, working conditions, transportation and housing. Findings One of the main findings of the study is the relative lack of importance of wages for doctors, which could be linked to high intrinsic motivation, perceptions of having an already highly paid job (relative to local conditions), and/or being in a relatively early stage of their career for most respondents. Professional development provides the highest satisfaction with jobs, followed by the working conditions. Doctors with less experience, males and the unmarried are more flexible about location. For nurses and midwives, skill upgrading emerged as the most cost effective method. Conclusions The study is the first of its kind conducted in Timor-Leste. It provides policy-relevant information to balance financial and non-financial incentives for different cadres and profiles of staff. It also augments a thin literature on the preferences of working doctors (as opposed to medical students) in low and middle income countries and provides insights into the ability to instil motivation to work in rural areas, which may be influenced by rural recruitment and Cuban-style training, with its emphasis on community service.Our Research Report for 2000-2002 reflects an outstanding level of achievement throughout the institution and demonstrates once again our high level of commitment to strategic and applied research particularly in areas that enhance the quality of life.