The challenges of preparing the health workforce of the future

15 August 2012

New technologies and tests, an ageing population, greater community expectations around healthcare — including those based on the easy availability of medical information and personal health records — are just some of the factors which will make the health workforce of 2025 look very different to the health workforce of today.

"If Health Workforce Australia can help reduce the disconnect between the training of the health workforce and health workforce needs, it will make a major contribution to improving healthcare in this community." - Professor Bruce Robinson, Dean, Sydney Medical School
"The current piecemeal approach is not working and is unnecessarily expensive. It is also problematic that, while the state, territory and commonwealth governments' aim is to achieve self sufficiency in the medical workforce, in 2009-10 there were more temporary visas issued to overseas doctors (3190) than medical graduates from Australian universities (2380)." - Associate Professor Tony Joseph, Senior Staff Specialist in Emergency Medicine and Director of Trauma (Emergency), Royal North Shore Hospital

On 16 August Sydney Medical School and the Health Faculties at the University of Sydney will host an event which asks what these changes might look like, what skills health professionals will need and what role universities and governments can play in responding to this rapidly changing employment landscape.

Mark Cormack, the Chief Executive of Health Workforce Australia, will give the keynote address. Health Workforce Australia was established by the Commonwealth Government to provide a coordinated, national approach to health workforce planning.

Earlier this year Health Workforce Australia completed a major report, Health Workforce 2025, which provides national workforce planning projections for doctors, nurses and midwives. Future reports will include projections for other health professionals.

The keynote address will be followed by an expert panel comprising:

  • Professor Bruce Robinson Dean, Sydney Medical School:

    "Universities play a critical role in training health professionals but the numbers trained and the type of education provided is not necessarily well connected to the country's health needs. With rising numbers of health and medical graduates in Australia, a major issue is whether they will have opportunities to work in areas which interest them or for which their courses have prepared them," said Professor Robinson.

    "In medicine, for example, the number of postgraduate training opportunities has not expanded to accommodate the increased number of people seeking to work in general practice, in surgery, and other areas - even though in some of these areas there is a shortage of doctors.

    "Despite a national doctor shortage and reliance on internationally trained doctors to meet our needs, those trained at Australian universities are not being offered the opportunity to remain here and work," Professor Robinson said.

  • Associate Professor Tony Joseph Senior Staff Specialist in Emergency Medicine and Director of Trauma (Emergency), Royal North Shore Hospital:

    "The solutions to addressing a staff shortage problem for an ageing population, with more chronic and complex conditions, will be initially to establish a meaningful discussion between the universities, federal, state and territory governments, and the respective specialty colleges to determine what the future medical requirements of the community will be and how to best address them.

  • Professor Jill White Dean, Sydney Nursing School
  • Professor Kathryn Refshauge Dean, Faculty of Health Sciences
  • Dr Teresa Anderson Chief Executive, Sydney Local Health District
  • Professor Iqbal Ramzan Dean, Faculty of Pharmacy

The MC and facilitator for the event is Professor John Horvath the Australian Government Chief Medical Officer from 2003-2009 and a current adviser to the Department of Health and Ageing and Sydney Medical School.

Event details
What: Postgraduate Conversations Series: The Health Workforce in 2025
When: Thursday, 16 August 2012 from 5.30pm, address commences at 6pm
Where: Law School Lecture Theatre 101 Camperdown Campus
Cost: Free

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