Introduction
Having a smart as well as sustainable healthcare system is the goal of every Australian. It may end up making more informed individuals in making better lifestyle choices and enjoying their happy lives and also reducing the instances of chronic disease. Through this citizens may have a greater control over the care delivery as well as access to services which directly meet their needs. Further, they may be better able to take advantage of new services like eConsultants, better access and remote monitoring along with other benefits of the revolution that is occurring digitally (World Health Organization, 2016). There is need that the government increases its efforts in ensuring that the country has better trained and well educated health care personnel to help in the administration of healthcare needs. In the past, Public Health education has been the preserve of Universities with the Master of Public Health (MPH) seen as the major player in terms of professional entry in the healthcare field. Public health education takes place as well within the fellowship training in the Faculty of Public Health Medicine; however, this is just for medical graduates in Australia (Voit & Carson, 2013). Presently, however, there have been cases of undergraduate degrees along with an increase in Vocational Education and Training sector. This essay proposes that the government has to put in place more policies aimed at enhancing the education of healthcare providers so as to portend a better future for healthcare in Australia.
Changing Context of Education in the health sector
There are many significant changes taking place in the tertiary education sector which offers a new context for looking at the directions as well as challenges that take place in the health care education sector (Rumbold & Bennett, 2016). There is some continuing pressure on universities to become less reliant on funding from the government and some pressure to increase the number of international students who pay fees. International students, who form a great part of the health sector students at certain institutions, mostly have varying educational backgrounds as well as needs (Committee for Economic Development of Australia, 2015). These students mostly fall into two categories: either they are going through university education to know how to tackle healthcare issue from where their countries of origin when they get back there; or they are using the healthcare training as a means of starting off a new life from their countries of origin (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, 2016). Without a doubt, international students who are competent will add to the learning sphere and more so for local students who really wish to develop an international understanding of health matters as well as skill set. Nevertheless, there is an actual counterbalance at the level of the institution. Having student enrolment practices that hinge on income may distract from education provision with some clear focus on what may be the best interest for healthcare in Australia.
Universities should consider changing their teaching programs and also reduce the length of study for a postgraduate program. Some of them ought to come up with articulated degrees at undergraduate and master’s level that students should take advantage of (Dussault, Buchan, Sermeus & Padaiga, 2014). In this case, the higher degrees may be needed by an individual who requires registering a professional course. An example is psychology as well as occupational therapy and dietetics that is offered at La Trobe University. Other universities have moved their professional entry programs to the level of graduates. An example is the one by Melbourne Model at The University of Melbourne (Sharp, 2016). All these kinds of shifts may result in increased pressure on degrees which have had a stronger student enrolment from the undergraduate level and other associated health professionals so as to warrant some new scope of thinking concerning healthcare and research.
The promotion of health and wellness and disease prevention continue to be seen as significant to the wellbeing of the population of Australia and right for an economically sustainable system of health. This will gain traction through Australia’s resolutions as well as recommendations as years go by. In the Australia’s 2020 summit resolution and recommendations along with the National Preventive Health Agency do call for the requirement of strong as well as capable health workforce that is capable of delivering on the promise of prevention of diseases and addressing of major poor health outcomes (Commonwealth of Australia, 2014). The projected shift in number of ageing population with a decrease in the number of young individuals who are expected to enter the healthcare workforce for the next ten years will be a challenge in the ability of the government in realizing community expectations when it comes to health care service delivery (Bartlett, Butler & Haines, 2016). Going by the influence on healthcare outcomes of policies as well as actions that come from beyond the health system, it is apparent that health education ought to be available and also accessible to individuals who are both from within the health sector and out of the health sector. This should not just be tied to the people with a clinical background or those with traditional roles in health care. The government must therefore come up with strategies aimed at increasing recruitment in the health care sector and also to broaden or deepen health care knowledge and skills in the entire healthcare work environment.
The National Health and Hospital Reform Commission Report (2009), has offered a recommendation of a framework that is based on competency as one way of realizing broad teaching as well as learning curricula for all personnel in the healthcare profession (Australian College of Nursing, 2016). Nursing has yet to come up with a role in this scope or area and it’s not clear what role nursing will play in this recommendation of coming up with a national clinical education as well as training agency (Schoo & Carson, 2016). The government should come up with minimum standards in the health sector for graduates who are attending certain programs. Some further discussion has centered on the workforce in healthcare and their needs, the graduate competencies they have and the current role and attributes of graduates who attend such programs. Major changes are happening globally (White, 2016). The MPH is perceived to be a degree that may be transported to other countries as well, however, things may change. The Bologna Process is an initiative of the European Union that aims at standardizing certificated courses in the entire European Union (EU). As a section of the process, Master of Public Health courses that are taught within the European Union may have to be accredited. The process of registering healthcare workforce will then come afterwards and will have to undergo some regulation (Kaldor, 2015). Australia was among the four non-EU nations to be a member of the Bologna Agreement but it has not followed through the developments thus far. It is in order that the government follows through the developments of the program so that healthcare workers from Australia may be competent enough having acquired similar education to their counterparts in European countries.
Proper Planning of Future Health care Workforce
The Future Health Workforce of Australia is controlled by the medium and long-term scope with adequate planning as well as projections for various sectors and professions. Having workforce projections is good for identification of likely gaps between the near future supply as well as demand for the workforce in demand through some scenarios (The University of Adelaide, 2013). A given scenario shows some particular vision of the delivery of health care in the future and in the health workforce environment, scenarios are mostly arrived at to show potential government policy decisions in higher education and in the training sector. This also affects employer practices as well as trends with the workforce that is existing along with the demand for the same.
The process of identifying potential gaps that exist in the workforce planning projections offers government, professional associations, employers, bodies responsible for regulation and higher education as well as training providers the opportunity of developing and coming up with plans for erasing the gaps. These plans may encompass workforce reform, enhancing changes to training pathways and intakes, changes to the level of immigration or a collection of all the factors. It is this kind of step that is necessary in the delivery of a healthcare workforce that is sustainable. As a result, apart from provision of the workforce planning projections, the government should put in place recommendations that are required in getting supportive policy spheres to make sure that the workforce of Australia meets the needs of the community (Rotem, Bauman & Dewdney, 2017). The government should put in place proper policies that are aimed at properly planning the workforce at the national level. It is at this very level that questions concerning aggregate supply as well as demand may be separated from the ones of allocation as well as distribution. The major aim is to make sure that there is a good pool of professionals who may undertake the real demand for healthcare delivery in Australia.
Why the Government should implement policies aimed at planning nursing workforce
In line with the scenario in other developed countries’ healthcare systems, Australia does have a major challenge in sustaining a healthcare workforce that will be able to address the rising demand for healthcare services in the country (Trauer & Cheng, 2016). Demand in healthcare in Australia is driven by a population that is ageing and living longer with problems that are rather complex coupled with rising costs of treatment and technology (Twigg, Geelhoed, Bremner & Duffield, 2013). This is also made worse by increase in the expectations of consumers in Australia. Health expenditure is responsible for an increase in the gross domestic product of Australia and is continually rising at an unsustainable level in the long end. The health workforce is known to be the single-most biggest component of the budget in Australia and the profession of nursing is known to be the largest among the health professions in the country.
In 2012, there were more than a quarter of one million Registered Nurses and close to 60,000 nurses who were enrolled in Australia. This number shows a great investment to the economy of Australia in relation to the cost of employing nurses and the underlying cost of educating them. These costs are both borne by the taxpayer (World Health Organization, 2013). The process of coordinated planning as well as deployment of the workforce is therefore significant (Woods & Murfet, 2015). This is not just for provision of substantial health benefits to the Australian community but also for offering financial gains from a resource that is utilized well.
There is a widespread acknowledgement of the soon-to-be retirement of older nurses and the likely impact that this will have on the future workforce. The impact that this will have will be seen in a number of trends such as: high attrition of students in courses that lead to registered nurses registration, a lower number in registered nurse graduates being employed and also a low retention rate for registered nurses in general terms. If there is a lack of coordinated making of decisions between tertiary institutions of learning, employers and governments and the profession in general there will be a negative impact in the number of nurses being employed in the workforce.
Conclusion
In summary, in order for the Australian economy to have the required number of nurses in its workforce in the future, there is need that it engages in workforce planning. This planning should be seen to be reflected in the education of nurses, their employment and registration. As it is now, a majority of the Australian population is aging and there will be a high requirement for nurses in future. The government should therefore establish policies that address these kinds of scenarios in the future.
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