For allied health jobs to expand and meet increasing demand, a jump in the number of placements available must occur.
At some point, most, if not all, of us will find ourselves needing to consult with someone in an allied healthcare job given so many healthcare professionals come under the allied health banner. This includes:
Chinese medicine practitioners
This growing list of health professionals is integral to an optimally performing healthcare system and represents over 25 per cent of the wider healthcare workforce.
More recently, allied healthcare jobs have also become even more important as part of multidisciplinary care teams given a growing focus on the management of chronic medical conditions and with the rollout of large government funded programs such as the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) or improving Aged Care.
As with any other healthcare jobs, people in these roles undergo rigorous, specific training to complete their qualifications and before they go on to practice. And just as with doctors and nurses, practical placements are critical components of this training.
However, as demand for allied healthcare workers increases and more students choose to study an allied health discipline, placements have become an issue that might create a barrier to ensure the growing demand for them is able to be met.
Issues with allied health placements
Professor Gregory Kolt, Dean of the School of Health Sciences at Western Sydney University and an executive member of the Australian Council of Deans of Health Sciences (ACDHS), recently spoke up about this.
Writing for the Health Times in March 2021, he pointed to international trends outlined by the World Health Organisation that predict a worldwide shortfall of 18 million healthcare workers by 2030, with Australia being no exception.
To meet this shortfall, Australian universities would need to produce more graduates in allied health but this would also mean ensuring these students could do their placements as part of their studies.
Professor Kolt revealed that an ACDHS survey early on in the pandemic found nearly 50 per cent of current students experienced disruptions to their placements. However, Covid notwithstanding, which created its own very specific issues with getting students into placements, the broader issue of practical placements has been becoming more problematic for institutions and a new approach is needed to address this.
A creative solution to allied healthcare placements
Professor Kolt suggests a move away from more traditional placements in hospitals by offering incentives to help training institutions partner up with private healthcare providers to take on allied healthcare students.
While this may seem a logical solution, given these are private companies, such an idea will only work if there are financial incentives involved, which would need to primarily come from the Federal government and go either directly to the providers or be channelled through the institutions themselves.
The other obstacle would be convincing private providers of the value of student placements and changing the perception that they are more a boon than a burden for their operations.
One obvious avenue to facilitate this would also be to target rural and disadvantaged urban areas crying out for more healthcare provision. Getting students into placements in such areas would both offer immediate relief to their operations by in effect providing additional hands, albeit still with their training wheels on, but also potentially open up students’ attitudes about where they might like to go on and practice once they graduate.
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