Supporting a sustainable workforce

As one of the largest specialist medical colleges in Australia and New Zealand, we're committed to training, developing and supporting the workforce required to fulfil the our mission of serving the community by fostering safety and high quality patient care in anaesthesia, perioperative medicine and pain medicine.

Anaesthesia and pain medicine workforce

Australia and New Zealand’s anaesthesia and pain medicine workforce comprises more than 7100 highly skilled professionals working in a variety of private and public settings. An analysis of this workforce highlighted a number of characteristics and trends that have influenced college workforce priorities, such as:

  • A marked under-representation of Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander and Māori fellows and trainees.
  • A geographic maldistribution of the workforce with around 84 per cent of anaesthetists and 90 per cent of specialist pain medicine physicians working in major cities in Australia, and 90 per cent of anaesthetists and 91 per cent of specialist pain medicine physicians working in urban or secondary urban areas in New Zealand.
  • A high number of specialist pain medicine physicians (nearly 50 per cent) approaching retirement age.

Policy and reform context

The anaesthesia and pain medicine workforce is affected by developments and policy changes in the health system as well as broader social and economic dynamics driving health workforce reforms. Policy and document analysis reveals a wide range of health system and broader factors impacting workforce and the way health services are being delivered, such as:

  • A growing and ageing population.
  • Demand for healthcare services increasing at a rate significantly in excess of both population and gross domestic product growth.
  • Changing community expectations about where and how health services are delivered.
  • Technological advances and innovations.
  • Resource constraint which has impacted health system funding, particularly in infrastructure and staffing.
  • Increasingly complex patients with multiple comorbidities.
  • The poorer health outcomes of Indigenous peoples in Australia and New Zealand.

National Medical Workforce Strategy

In 2019 the Australian government Department of Health announced that it was developing a 10-year National Medical Workforce Strategy to guide long-term medical workforce planning. The first phase was to develop a scoping document and this was completed in July 2019. The strategy is due to be finalised and endorsed by the Council of Australian Governments Health Council in late 2020. Further information about the strategy is available on the Department of Health website.

A number of medical workforce priorities for the strategy have been identified, informed by stakeholders including specialist medical colleges. The priorities to be addressed by the strategy are:

  • Geographic maldistribution and inequality in healthcare access.
  • Over- and under-supply in certain specialties.
  • The balance of generalist versus subspecialist skills.
  • Growing the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander doctors and having a culturally safe medical workforce.
  • Doctor work-readiness.
  • Service delivery and changing models of care.
  • Coordination between medical workforce planning stakeholders.
  • Management of the training and career pathway.
  • Reliance on registrars to meet health service needs.

Specialist Training Program

This Australian government initiative aims to extend vocational training for specialist registrars into settings outside traditional metropolitan teaching hospitals, including regional, rural and remote, and private facilities.

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Growing the Indigenous workforce

Helping more Indigenous doctors to train as anaesthetists and pain specialists is one of the key ways we can address wider inequities. This doesn't just mean recruiting, retaining, and supporting Indigenous health practitioners, but also helping to create culturally safe and responsive workplaces.

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Last updated 09:09 30.06.2020