Future health workforce educational needs: A qualitative exploration

Professor Sharon Mickan1,2, Dr Xanthe  Golenko2, Professor  Nicholas Buys2, Professor Andrea Bialocerkowski2

1Gold Coast Health , Gold Coast, Australia, 2Griffith University, Gold Coast Campus, Australia

Objective: New technologies, globalisation and an aging population are changing our current healthcare and education systems. Currently there is diversity in the range and quality of professional development courses attended by health professionals, and little is known about how clinicians enact lifelong learning throughout their career.

Methods: This study was designed to explore perspectives of senior health clinicians and academics about the educational needs of the future health workforce to meet changing workplace demands. A convenience sample of 12 senior academic and clinical managers participated in semi-structured, discursive interviews. Data were coded and categorised into emergent themes.

Results: Twelve health professionals participated in discursive interviews; including allied health (11) and medical (1) professionals; working in academic (7) and clinical (5) positions. All participants described educational pathways used by health professionals and proposed innovative approaches for future education initiatives. They proposed that learning should be aligned with practice needs, available through flexible and connected learning opportunities, and recognised by academic institutions.

Conclusions: Participants concluded that universities have an important role, in partnership with employers and professional associations, to educate health professionals to meet changing workplace demands and expectations. Health professionals seeking professional development should look to universities to provide flexible short learning opportunities that could be integrated into existing and future postgraduate programs.

Griffith University has launched a range of professional development modules for healthcare professionals. Blended and online learning opportunities have been designed with partners and include an applied assessment task. Pending successful assessment, digital badges will be awarded. Professional development modules may be stacked into recommended pathways within new and existing postgraduate degrees.


Sharon is the inaugural conjoint Professor of Allied Health between Gold Coast Health and Griffith University. In this position, she designs and evaluates strategies to promote the research knowledge and engagement of allied health clinicians. Sharon’s research is focused on three major streams; (1) active knowledge translation and implementation of current research in clinical practice (2) building research skills and capacity in healthcare clinicians and (3) promoting interprofessional learning and teamwork.
Sharon established the Allied Health Research Capacity and Engagement Collaborative. Over the last 4 years, this group has conducted a broad range of primary and secondary research projects to extend the evidence to enhance the research engagement of allied health professionals. As an example, they have designed a series of research projects; starting with evaluating the effectiveness of an evidence-informed journal club format, identifying sustainability factors and embedding these within an implementation study.

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