In March 2014, Health Workforce Australia released workforce in focus documents for six health professions, these being dietetics, optometry, pharmacy, physiotherapy, podiatry and psychology. What is worth noting is that at the end of each report, the numbers of each health professional per 100,000 population are listed by each of the 61 Medicare Local catchment areas throughout Australia. This could provide clues as to where a health professional might look to set up a practice or search for employment – in the areas of greatest need.
Here are the key quotes from each of these documents:
Dietetics – “Given the number of student commencements and completions compared with the size of the workforce, it could be expected more dietitians want to enter the workforce than are required to replace those leaving.”
Optometry – on the topic of the new courses at Flinders University and Deakin University, which will produce graduates in 2014 and 2015 respectively – “If the increased number of student commencements translate into greater numbers of graduates entering the workforce in the next five years, this will have impacts for the industry in terms of the availability of jobs at levels suited to graduates and early career optometrists.”
Pharmacy – “Stakeholder bodies noted there is already a perception that pharmacy graduates are choosing further study or pursuing careers outside of pharmacy rather than enter the pharmacist workforce due to concerns about oversupply, training opportunities, and/or salaries.”
Physiotherapy – “The key workforce issues are is difficulties in filling positions in rural and remote areas, and a shortage of more experienced and specialised physiotherapists.” Also “In relation to more experienced and specialised physiotherapists, the average years worked information shows a large gap between clinician’s years worked, and years worked by those in administrator and educator roles. This suggests relatively few physiotherapists’ stay in the profession and advance to these roles.”
Podiatry – “Difficulties in obtaining clinical placements in a predominantly private workforce were highlighted as affecting the training pathway though, which influences education capacity and consequently potential future supply.” Also “As Australia’s population ages and the increasing incidence of chronic conditions places greater pressure on the public health system; an issue for consideration in future planning for this workforce will be the link between public sector engagement and support for what is primarily a private workforce.”
Psychology – “While the size of the workforce has increased substantially in recent years, consistent stakeholder feedback was that demand for services (particularly clinical psychologists) has also increased, and is expected to continue to do so. Reasons for this include shifts in community attitudes and the destigmatisation of mental health, as well as increased government support and access to mental health services. Stakeholder feedback also indicated increasing demand for services is not being met in rural and remote areas, and there are extended waiting times in private practice (across geographic areas).”
Summary – While the workforce for each profession has its own nuances, this data suggests that dietetics, optometry, and pharmacy graduates might have difficulty finding employment. There may be pathways in the future to increase the retention of physiotherapists so that they can progress to advanced roles in areas such as administration and education. It would appear that there will be opportunities for podiatrists in the future due to clinical placement availability restricting the number of graduates, along with chronic conditions such as diabetes and obesity increasing the need for podiatric services. As there is less of a stigma around accessing mental health services, opportunities for psychologists may increase.
2014 Workforce in Focus article series on My Health Career: