Exploration of professional supports across different operational allied health structures

Ms Elizabeth Dalla Santa1, Dr  Debra Mitchell1,2

1Monash Health, Melbourne, Australia, 2Monash University, Melbourne, Australia

Background: Effective governance is vital for quality clinical care across large health services.  However, there is a paucity of evidence exploring the interplay between operational structure and professional governance in allied health. Professional governance sets the standard for allied health qualifications, competency, credentialing and scope of practice, and is supported by education, research and supervision.

Aim: To evaluate the allied health professional supports across four different operational structures, spanning mental health, paediatrics, acute and community services within one organisation.

Method: A mixed method design used document review, survey, focus groups and interview methods, guided by a steering committee of allied health leaders. The survey was sent to allied health staff (n=1244) from all programs.  Interview and focus group participants were purposively sampled to include allied health leaders and employees from all programs. Data were analysed using descriptive statistics and content analysis.

Results: 287 (23%) allied health employees completed the survey and 53 allied health leaders attended eight focus groups and 20 interviews. The overarching theme across all participants was the importance of senior roles for each profession in order to uphold professional governance. There is added complexity for managers of multi-disciplinary teams. ‘Flat’ operational structures resulted in challenges providing clinical supervision and limited career progression opportunities. High demands of clinical caseload was the main barrier to engaging in quality and research activity. Similarities and differences across the different contexts will be discussed.

Conclusion: Tiered operational structures and access to seniors of the same professional background support professional governance.


Liz is the Manager of Physiotherapy & Exercise Physiology (subacute) and Allied Health Workforce Advisor for the Workforce, Innovation, Strategy, Education & Research unit at Monash Health, Melbourne. She holds a Master of Health Management (UNSW) and is undertaking her Master of Business Administration (AGSM). Liz has a clinical background in paediatric physiotherapy and is currently Principle Investigator for two funded research projects at Monash Health. She has a passion for leading teams with a strategic and innovative focus, fostering a sustainable and contemporary allied health workforce.

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