The Allied Health work readiness study: Identifying personal characteristics signalling work readiness in Allied Health students

Dr Maxine O’brien1, Ms Kelli Troy1, Ms Jayne Kirkpatrick1

1Darling Downs Health, Toowoomba, Australia

Background: Clinical placements associated with university degrees for the allied health professions aim to support the preparation of students for post graduate employment through the practical application of theoretical constructs. However, employers recognise that a range of individual skills and attributes outside of technical and academic achievement impact on work readiness. This project sought to identify these individual characteristics, and their relative importance.

Method: The study utilised the knowledge and experience of allied health Clinical Educators, experienced Clinical Supervisors, and Allied Health Directors, across six AH disciplines. Participants completed a brief demographic questionnaire before participating in one of three groups which employed the structured, Nominal Group Technique to seek answers to the research question “What do you believe are the most important personal characteristics signalling work readiness in allied health students?”

Results: Data were analysed by group and then overall, resulting in a complete list of 103 characteristics raised, 37 of which were judged as among the “most important” by study participants. Analysis revealed six characteristics which were identified and voted as among the most important by each independent group. Personal insight and self-awareness rose to the top of the list of most important characteristics, with resilience being second on this list, followed by communication skills, organisational skills, lifelong learning, and professionalism.  A further nine characteristics were selected by two of the three groups, while an additional 22 characteristics were raised and voted as among the most important by members of a single group.

Discussion: We believe that these results will be of interest to allied health students and staff, universities, recruiters and management. It is our hope that identification of these characteristics may also lead to the development of targeted education and support programs within DDH to assist students’ growth in these areas.


Dr Maxine O’Brien has enjoyed a rich and varied career as a psychologist including clinical, teaching, supervision and research roles. Despite an abiding love for the clinical practice of psychology, Maxine also has a passion for useful, practical research and has completed a PhD and numerous publications. Accordingly, Maxine’s current roles within Queensland Health include that of Senior Psychologist, Alcohol and Other Drug Service, and DDH Acting Research Fellow. Maxine’s lengthy experience as a Clinical Supervisor has prompted curiosity about work readiness in health service staff, making her a natural fit for this research team.

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