Non-traditional roles in allied health: an under-explored way to meet rural patient needs and expand rural allied health career pathways?

Dr Anna Moran1, Dr Catherine Cosgrave2, Professor Susan Nancarrow3, Dr Rosalie Boyce4

1Albury Wodonga Health – University Of Melbourne, Albury, Australia, 2Department of Rural Health, University of Melbourne, Wangaratta, Australia, 3Southern Cross University, Bilinga, Australia, 4Barwon Health and South West Healthcare , Warrnambool, 4102


“Wicked” problems in rural health include an ageing population, high-levels of multi-morbidity, poor access to health care and difficulty recruiting and retaining health staff. Compared to doctors and nurses, allied health professionals (AHPs) are twice as likely to leave their rural or remote position. With greater research and recognition, “Non-traditional roles” that sit outside profession specific roles e.g. complex care coordinators, may help to alleviate these issues.

A cross sectional design was used to extract data from the Victorian Allied Health Workforce Research Project (AHWRP) and job descriptions from Careers.Vic (CV) to explore career opportunities available to AHPs in non-traditional roles across Victoria. Data were analysed using content and thematic analysis.

Despite an extensive dataset, 30 non-traditional titles were identified from AHWRP. Similarly from CV, 16 non-traditional roles (compared to 135 discipline-specific roles) were identified, of which 2 were rural specific. Non-traditional roles require experience (>2 yrs) but this was not always consistent with the postion’s pay/grading or role description. 12/16 roles were offered as nursing and/or AH, 3 were AH-specific and 1 was nursing only.

Whilst these positions have the capacity to play a key role in meeting client needs, minimising pressure on our health services and supporting AH career-progression, they remain limited in number, particularly in rural-areas, and must be competed for with nurses. To support a case for expansion in rural services, more research is needed to understand the function and value of AHPs working in these non-traditional health roles in rural settings.


Dr Anna Moran is a physiotherapist by background. She has been working in health services research for the past 10 years exploring the allied health workforce in the UK and Australia. Anna is currently employed in a jointly funded University of Melbourne, Department of Rural Health – Albury Wodonga Health position to help grow research capacity and capability in the region.