Strong primary healthcare (PHC) services are efficient, cost-effective and associated with better population health outcomes. However, little is known about the role and perspectives of PHC staff in creating a sustainable service. Staff from a single-point-of-entry primary health care service in Elmore, a small rural community in north-west Victoria, were surveyed. Qualitative methods were used to collect data to show how the key factors associated with the evolution of a once-struggling medical service into a successful and sustainable PHC service have influenced staff satisfaction. The success of the service was linked to visionary leadership, teamwork and community involvement while service sustainability was described in terms of inter-professional linkages and the role of the service in contributing to the broader community. These factors were reported to have a positive impact on staff satisfaction. The contribution of service delivery change and ongoing service sustainability to staff satisfaction in this rural setting has implications for planning service change in other primary health care settings. WHAT IS KNOWN ABOUT THIS TOPIC?: Integrated PHC services have an important role to play in achieving equitable population health outcomes. Many rural communities struggle to maintain viable PHC services. Innovative PHC models are needed to ensure equitable access to care and reduce the health differential between rural and metropolitan people. WHAT DOES THIS PAPER ADD?: Multidisciplinary teams, visionary leadership, strong community engagement combined with service partnerships are important factors in the building of a rural PHC service that substantially contributes to enhanced staff satisfaction and service sustainability. WHAT ARE THE IMPLICATIONS FOR PRACTITIONERS?: Understanding and engaging local community members is a key driver in the success of service delivery changes in rural PHC services.