The healthcare shortage in Australia and what you can do about it

Nurse talking to mother and child

Healthcare is one of Australia’s fastest-growing – and essential – industries. Up to 2016, the healthcare and social assistance sectors (which includes jobs like doctor, nurse, dentist, physiotherapist, childcare worker and aged care worker) experienced the nation’s largest jobs growth over the previous 15 years.

The sector now employs more than 1.5 million people. That’s roughly one in every eight Australian workers!

So why this rapid growth?

Well, there are several reasons. They include increased prosperity and government investment. However, probably the leading driver of this growth is an ageing population. As people live longer, they require more care over a longer period. That’s just science. And the government predicts that by 2050 some 3.5 million Australians will require aged care.

This growth in the healthcare sector does mean that more people are joining the health workforce to meet the country’s needs. However, it doesn’t mean the picture of healthcare employment is all rosy.

Unfortunately, there’s a problem. And it’s to do with in distribution.

A regional shortage

A Department of Employment report published in 2017 broke down the occupations that have shortages of suitably skilled workers. Plus, it looked at the types of locations where that shortfall in workers is most acute.

One of the key takeaways was how regional areas are particularly lacking in qualified healthcare workers. That’s despite the growing need for them across the whole country. The report highlighted four key professions that were lacking workers in regional locations:

The large proportion of the healthcare industry covered by these professions suggests that there is some kind of shortage across much of the sector in regional areas, even beyond these highlighted jobs.

If something isn’t done to address this shortage, there could well be a crisis in regional healthcare.

And no one wants that.

Incentives

Fortunately, the government is trying to remedy this situation. It recognises that attracting workers to regional areas is key to meeting the healthcare needs of regional communities. They want to ensure that talent is not too concentrated in the major metropolitan areas.

That’s why there’s a obvious difference when you look at the Relocation Assistance to Take Up a Job program.

This government program can give jobseekers financial assistance when they relocate to take up a professional position (if they move more than 90 minutes away from their current home).

Payments can be up to:

  • $3000 if relocating to a capital city
  • $6000 if relocating to a regional area.

Can you see what they did there?

An education that meets the country’s needs

This shortage in regional areas does mean opportunities for suitably qualified healthcare workers to carve out a distinctive and rewarding career. They will have more choices about the roles they take on, and greater scope for securing good pay and conditions.

Put simply, the regions are where it’s at.

As Australia’s largest regional university, Charles Sturt University is uniquely placed to help you make the most of opportunities in regional areas, and so help the country meet its healthcare needs.

Our degrees in allied health and pharmacy and medical and dental science are full of hands-on learning experiences in world-class facilities. But they also give you loads of workplace experience in regional organisations.

Dr Heather Robinson, Senior Lecturer in Pharmacy at Charles Sturt University, explains how this works for pharmacy students.

“As a pharmacy student, you’ll be based at Orange, New South Wales. You’ll experience life in a flourishing regional town alongside dentistry, physiotherapy and clinical science students.

“The university is committed to contributing to the communities where we are located. So the pharmacy program has a focus on regional health and rural health practice, including the opportunity to participate in rural professional placement.

“Many of our pharmacy students find casual work in pharmacies in Orange, Bathurst and nearby small towns during their degree. What’s more, they often stay on after graduation as interns and, later, as registered pharmacists and pharmacy owners in the area.”

Small is beautiful

Another benefit of learning at a regional university is  smaller class sizes and a closer sense of community. These mean you get more personalised learning. Plus, more access to academics to discuss your studies.

Of course, no-one wants an education that limits their options when it comes to starting or progressing their career. So a healthcare qualification from Charles Sturt University will give you unique insights and understanding about the particular issues and requirements of devising and delivering healthcare services to rural and regional communities. However, it also gives you the skills and knowledge to work in any location. You could work anywhere from the sweeping plains of the outback to the heart of the city. It will also set you up to work in a wide range of healthcare settings, including:

  • hospitals
  • health centres
  • outreach services
  • laboratories
  • private organisations.

For Heather Robinson, the shortage of healthcare professionals in regional areas, combined with the way Australia’s population is ageing, means opportunities.

“Rural practice offers some unique and varied practice and lifestyle options in an environment of real need.”

This means that people with the right knowledge, skills and qualifications can play a significant role in ensuring the future wellbeing of our communities. And enjoy an amazing career while they do so.

So, do you want to make a difference?

We’re ready when you are. Check out our healthcare courses or contact one of our friendly team to go through your options.