Key issues facing the Victorian allied health workforce

Prof. Susan Nancarrow1, Ms Gretchen¬† Young2, Ms Katy O’Callaghan3, Dr Joanne Bradbury1

1Southern Cross University, Lismore, Australia, 2Young Futures, Brisbane, Australia, 3Outpost Consulting, Brisbane, Australia

Aim

To describe key workforce issues facing allied health professions in Victoria.

Method

The Victorian Department of Health and Human Services commissioned the Allied Health Workforce Research Program to generate new allied health evidence. Data collection involved an initial environmental scan of 27 allied health professions followed by in-depth analysis of four allied health professions (physiotherapy, sonography, allied health assistants (AHAs)and speech pathology) through surveys and focus groups.

Results

In total, 2500 individual survey responses were received (representing 15% of physiotherapists, 30% of AHAs;  40% of sonographers and 49% of speech pathologists). Overall, the responding professions reported high job satisfaction. Supply and demand was mixed, with evidence of uneven grade distribution; rapid growth of new graduates in some disciplines coinciding with increasing competition for public sector entry level jobs and unmet needs in specific population groups. Common themes across the four professions included: the importance of professional recognition and rewards; the need for improved career development opportunities; the high value of work-life balance. Regional training is associated with greater regional retention and employment. There is great potential to use allied health assistants to build workforce capacity. There was some evidence of innovation in the use of telehealth. A research culture can create individual career opportunities and support professional growth. Skills gaps were more evident in generalist than specialist fields.

Significance of the findings to allied health

These findings highlight the need for: advocacy to promote allied health awareness; metrics to capture allied health demand / need; leadership roles to support the development of early career professionals and to advocate for adequate resourcing and service provision; innovation and entrepreneurship in career progression; improved access to CPD; and support workload management for the existing workforce.