Optimising the impact of allied health: Learning from the Victorian Allied Health Workforce Research Project

Professor Susan Nancarrow1, Dr Alison Roots1, Ms Gretchen Young2, Ms Katy O’Callaghan3, Dr Annie Banbury1, Dr Anna Moran4

1Southern Cross University, Coolangatta, Australia, 2Young Futures, Brisbane, Australia, 3Outpost Consulting, Brisbane, Australia, 4University of Melbourne, Albury / Wodonga, Australia

The Victorian Department of Health & Human Services commissioned a three year, Allied Health (AHP) Workforce Research Program (2015-18), to generate new qualitative and quantitative information to capture, describe and explore the key workforce issues facing the AHP workforce in Victoria.


A three-tiered, mixed methods approach was used to obtain data using an environmental scan (n=27 professions), survey of organisations and individual clinicians and focus groups with clinicians (n=11 purposively selected AHPs). Questions explored the size, location, skill set, recruitment and retention issues, and organisational contexts. Individual clinician data captured information about education and training, the nature and location of work, job satisfaction and career pathways. Focus groups were used to explore issues highlighted in the survey responses. Survey data were analysed descriptively. Qualitative data were extracted from notes using a framework to analyse themes of workforce capacity, capability, and engagement.


In total, 7399 survey participants from 11 disciplines (exercise physiology, dietetics, medical laboratory science, audiology, AH assistants, speech pathology, sonography, physiotherapy, social work, psychology, occupational therapy) responded to the survey (response rates ranged from 14% to 50%). Over 100 AHPs participated in focus groups. This presentation describes the five key themes emerging from the survey data and considers ways that AHPs can work proactively to address these issues, namely;

  1. AHP roles are poorly understood by the public and other health care providers
  2. AHPs undersell their attributes and need to be clear about their value proposition
  3. AHPs come from multiple career pathways
  4. The AHP workforce paradox: managing AHP oversupply alongside unmet community need
  5. 5. The “youthfulness” of the allied health workforce and implications for workforce development


Susan is Professor of Health Sciences at Southern Cross University. Susan has nearly 20 years’ international experience as a health services researcher with expertise in health workforce reform, service delivery and organisation. In particular, she works with health services to help them think differently about how they organise and deliver care to provide solutions to enhance health care from the patient’s perspective. She is particularly committed to regional and rural health issues, community health, and capacity building. Recent research projects have explored the use of the NBN to provide telehealth to keep older people independent at home; primary health care integration; the use of social media to engage with health service users; and the recent Victorian Allied Health Workforce Research Project.

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2009, Canberra (8th NAHC)

2012, Canberra (9th NAHC)

2013, Brisbane (10th NAHC)

2015, Melbourne (11th NAHC)

2017, Sydney (12th NAHC)

2019, Brisbane (13th NAHC)

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