The Rural Allied Health Workforce Study (RAHWS): profiling the allied health workforce in rural NSW and Tasmania
Keane, S and Lowe, SE and Smith, A and Lincoln, M and Wagner, S, The Rural Allied Health Workforce Study (RAHWS): profiling the allied health workforce in rural NSW and Tasmania, 2008 National SARRAH Conference Proceedings, 27-30 August 2008, Yeppoon, Queensland (2008) [Conference Extract]
According to the AIHW 2006 "Australia's Health" report, the allied health professions form about 18% of
the health workforce in Australia, while medical practitioners comprise 16% and nurses 65% of the
workforce. There is a current shift toward more multidisciplinary models of care, with an emphasis on
prevention and early hospital discharge. Strategic deployment of the allied health workforce will be
needed to address these changes in service delivery.
It is well known that there is a national shortage of allied health professionals (DEWR 2004 Skills
Shortage List) and that this problem is worse in rural areas (SARRAH 2004). Detailed workforce data
are needed to support workforce planning in the allied health professions. While workforce data are
robust for rural nurses and medical practitioners (AIHW) these data are not available for workforce
planning in the rural allied health professions (AHWAC 2006). This study provided a detailed profile of
the rural and regional allied health workforce in NSW and Tasmania.
A comprehensive survey was designed in consultation with university and public health stakeholders,
and was piloted in a small sample of allied health professionals. The survey included questions on
demographics, work settings and attitudes relevant to recruitment and retention of rural allied health
practitioners. We recruited subjects through multiple methods in an effort to capture the entire NSW
rural and Tasmanian state workforce. On-line survey and hardcopy responses were collected from both
public and private sector practitioners across Tasmania and rural NSW. Survey data were analysed
At the time of presentation, data collection was underway in NSW and had been completed in
Tasmania. This paper provides information on the profile of the allied health workforce which will result
from the study. It will present preliminary findings related to the Tasmanian allied health workforce settings,
professional development, recruitment and retention as examples.
This project was funded by the NSW Institute of Rural Clinical Services and Teaching, the University
Department of Rural Health, Tasmania and Tasmanian Department of Health and Human Services.