Dr Emily Ridgewell1,2, Ms Leigh Clarke1, Dr Sarah Anderson2, Dr Michael Dillon2
1Australian Orthotic Prosthetic Association, Camberwell, AUSTRALIA, 2La Trobe University, Bundoora, AUSTRALIA
Previous analyses revealed a small orthotist/prosthetist workforce with low practitioner prevalence (i.e. number of practitioners per 100,000 Australians). Initiatives were implemented to increase relative workforce size including a government-led change in immigration policy to facilitate entry of internationally trained orthotist/prosthetists. This project aimed to compare demographics of the orthotist/prosthetist workforce in Australia and each state/territory between 2007, 2012 and 2019.
This quasi-experiment analysed data from the Australian Orthotic Prosthetic Association data-base of certified orthotist/prosthetists, to compare changes in the absolute number of practitioners and practitioner prevalence, as well as practitioner age, gender and service location (i.e. metropolitan, regional/remote) across three time points, stratified by each Australian state/territory.
Between 2007 and 2019, national orthotist/prosthetist prevalence increased 90% to 1.62 per 100,000 Australians; average age decreased by 6.5 years to 35 years (p=0.001); and the proportion of female practitioners increased 19% to 49% (p<0.05). Only 22% of the female workforce was over 40 years of age. The proportion of practitioners servicing a regional/remote location did not change over time (range 13-14%).
Between 2007 and 2019 the national orthotist/prosthetist workforce increased at a rate that exceeded Australia’s population growth, became younger and more female. Ortho-tist/prosthetist prevalence remains below international recommendations; particularly in states outside of Victoria and Tasmania, and in regional/remote areas. Low numbers of mid-to-late career female practitioners suggest challenges to the retention of this particular cohort. These data can help inform workforce initiatives to retain a younger and more female workforce and improve access to orthotic/prosthetic services.
Dr Ridgewell is the Research and Policy Manager for the Australian Orthotic Prosthetic Association, the peak body responsible for self-regulation of the orthotic/prosthetic profession in Australia. Dr Ridgewell has a keen interest in driving an improved understanding of the allied health workforce, particularly for small and specialised professions such as orthotics/prosthetics.