Strategies for Workforce Shortage in Australian Healthcare

Introduction

The Australian healthcare system has over the years been ranked as one of the best on the global perspective (Naccarella, 2014). This has been based on the extent to which quality care is given and the investment of the state of the art technology to facilitate these processes. However, there are various major concerns that continue to ail the health care sector in Australia (Scott, 2009). The shortage of healthcare providers within the country has remained a key issue that continue to impact on any attempts to make positive strides. While the respective states in Australia such as Queensland have adopted measures in the move to resolve this concern, it remains a thorny issue (Lim & Seale, 2014). Therefore, there is a need for the adoption of a management model that is implemented on the national scale so as to resolve this issue.

The importance of the shortage management model is emphasised by the vital role that the sector plays towards the economic development (Moran, Burson & Conrad, 2014). A sector that has served as an icon for different countries across the globe faces the threat of undergoing through massive decline as the shortage of qualified workforce continue to linger. This is especially based on the fact that this shortage is in line with the future demand for healthcare service (Parrella, 2013). The gap between the demand for healthcare services by the Australian population and the supply of the care givers continue to widen (Lines, 2015). Previously, historical models of finding a long term solution towards the issue have not been effective. This creates the need for the development of an effective management initiative that would play a key role towards resolving the issue and casting a ray of hope towards this essential sector in the Australian context.

This report aims at presenting a management initiative that could be implemented within the Australian healthcare sector so as to address the issue of workforce shortages. The initiative is known as the NEW DAWN management model. The rationality of the name of the model is the new insights that it seeks to bring into the Australian healthcare sector in the long term .The model is to be implemented on a national perspective so as to ensure that it is able to address the key concerns on a holistic approach. The main elements that are included in the report include; identification and substantiation of need and aim of the initiative, the relation to best practice and a business plan that would facilitate the implementation of the model. Essentially, the focus of the management initiative is to develop a framework of reducing the workforce shortage with the Australian context in the long term. In the context of this study, the workforce population in the Australian healthcare sectors is taken to incorporate all forms of staff who work towards delivering care. This includes nurses and other healthcare practitioner. Within the Australian context, nurses represent the largest share of the workforce within the sector. They constitute more than 50% of the healthcare sector workforce within the country. Therefore, the insights developed within the management initiative outline are meant to provide a solution in relation to the entire workforce within the country.

Identification and substantiation of need and aim of change/innovation

Evidence of the need for the change/innovation

According to data collected in the Australian healthcare sector in 2002, there is a massive gap in terms of the labour force. Evidence suggests that the country had a shortfall of 10-12,000 nurses (Segal & Bolton, 2009). This is a representation of close to 5% of the entire healthcare workforce in the country. Worse still, the report presented by the Productivity Commission illustrated that the trend continues to soar over the years. This is a worrying factor this it is an illustration of the extent to which the workforce shortage within the healthcare sector in Australia may have far reaching implication towards the quality of care given in the long term.

Different attributes have been linked towards the problem of workforce shortage within the Australian context. While seeking to devise an appropriate management initiative to address this concern, focusing on the key contributing factors is vital. One of the key reasons that have been cited to be contributing towards the increase in the workforce gap in Australia is the ageing population. Over time, the Australian workforce and population has been ageing at high rates. At the same time, the mortality rates have remained low compared to other countries across the globe. According to data presented by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) the number of nurse working in the country who are aged 55 years and above has increased massively over the years. The report indicates that in a period of ten years, the numbers increased from 7% in 1995 to 19% in year 2005 (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2014). This is an illustration of the extent to which the elderly age continues to dominate the nursing and general healthcare workforce within the Australian context. Ultimately, the increase in the number of healthcare workforce aged 55 years and above within the country has contributed towards shortage of adequate staff to tend to the future demand.

Another factor that has contributed towards the shortage of the healthcare workforce in Australia is the low uptake of related course within the colleges and other higher learning institutions. The healthcare course still remains largely unfavourable among the students at the college level in the country. This may be facilitated by the lack of mentorship or the perception that the field is not as well compensation as others. Studies suggest that the increase in the number of students who take up healthcare related course within the context of Australian sector has only been at 3%. Therefore, this is an indication of the need to adopt corrective measures to address this concern. Still on this note, the number of people who take up professional healthcare jobs in Australia compared to other countries is low. According to statistics, only 2.7 persons out of 1000 take up professional practice in the healthcare sector in the country (Segal & Bolton, 2009). Furthermore evident suggests that Australia attempts to close this gap by relying on the overseas labour market by this has not worked effectively.

Evidence that the change/innovation planned meets this need.

The NEW DAWN management initiative is aimed at addressing the gaps that exist within the Australian healthcare sector by countering the specific challenges that have been faced. It will be aimed at increasing the number of students who take up the healthcare practices as a profession, and improve the ability of the country to manage the future needs of the sector. Since the model will be implemented in all the states across Australia, it will be effective towards addressing the key concerns that have been ailing the sector in terms of staff shortage.

Change strategy in relation to best practice

While implementing the new dawn management initiative, the focus is to ensure that the change elements are well implemented. For effective undertaking of this process Kotter’s 8 areas for successful change are used in illustrating the approach to be taken. By following the concepts that have been presented by Kotter it is expected that the new dawn change model will become a reality within the Australian healthcare sector. In this perspective, the model will be implemented in the following steps.

Towards the New Dawn: Kotter’s 8 areas for successful change

Area 1: A sense of Urgency

This involves the process of creating a sense of interest and urgent needs to take action (Kotter & Rathgeber, 2006). In this perspective, a message will be passed through social media including Facebook and twitter in the form of a campaign to get more youth involved in the healthcare sector in Australia. This will be effective since most of the young people who are the target audience for the new dawn change management initiative users to such forums.

Area2: Building a Guiding Coalition

This involves the process of getting likeminded parties to be part of support towards the change initiative that has been proposed. In this perspective, the play a vital role towards providing the required assistance in terms of information sharing and forging more support (Bateman, 2012). In the case of the new dawn initiative seeking to deliver more enrolment of young students in healthcare professions, the news media team will be used. More precisely, Sky News Australia will be targeted as the key support party. The link will be derived through the social media interaction. This group is selected as the first approach area since it reaches out to people across Australia using different information outlets. Also, students from different universities in Australia will be encouraged to be ambassadors of the social media campaign towards reducing the gap in the staff shortage in the Australian healthcare sector.

Area3: Strategic vision and initiative

The vision and initiative provides the drive towards achieving the targets set (Kotter & Cohen, 2012). It also gives a sense of direction towards the approach set. In the context of the new dawn initiative, the vision is to reduce the workforce shortage to 0% in 5 years. This is to be achieved through achieving a 35% increase in the enrolment for healthcare related courses within the Australian colleges and learning institutions within the period.

Area4: Enlisting a volunteer army

This involves finding as many people as possible who are willing to support the change process (Rasmussen, Mylonas, & Beck, 2012). In the case of the new dawn management program within the Australian healthcare sector, the volunteer army will be obtained from the social media. On twitter, the hash tag #iamAustraliasnewdawn will be formed to obtain support. By getting this conversation top go viral; more and more young people will gain an interest in enrolling for healthcare related courses. Similarly on Facebook, a group will be formed so as to advocate for the need to drive efforts towards achieving a new dawn in the Australian healthcare.

Area5: Enable Action by removing barriers

This involves eliminating any form of hurdles that may be experienced by potential supporters in giving their support (Pollack & Pollack, 2015). To achieve this, the initiative will encourage people from different ages, gender and cultures, professions, to join in giving their voice through the social media and any other method that they may prefer. The overall intention is to ensure that the message of achieving a new generation of young people within the healthcare sector in Australia is achieved in the long term.

Area6: Generating short term wins

This involves the process of recognizing the small strides that have been made towards the change process (Naranjo-Gil, 2015). In the case of the new dawn initiative in the Australian healthcare sector, the change initiative will be evaluated weekly based on the number of followers it has achieved on the social media and the actual people who have enrolled as a result of the initiative. The weekly tracking will eventually escalate to monthly and annually. However, recognizing the small strides will play a key role in motivating the parties involved and making them feel part of the change program.

Area7: Sustaining acceleration

The process of getting more people involved in the process of creating awareness on the need to have more young employees within the Australian healthcare will be achieved by changing approaches. For instance, in the first phase of evolution, the target of the initiative will be on the individual major universities in Australia. This focus will help in generating a more personalised approach of the initiative by the students and the faculty within the university. They will be in a position to take the process more seriously and embrace initiative to implement the suggested approaches.

Area8: Instituting change

This involves the process of ensuring that the concepts that have been suggested are implemented within the framework that that it has been intended (Bateman, 2012). In the case of the new dawn, strategies will be put in place to ensure that different states of Australia make the changes of increasing the number of university students who enrol in the healthcare related courses. This will be achieved through making a follow up with the political representatives of the different states to ensure that they recognise the approaches that they need to adopt so as to ensure that the new dawn change management program become successful.

Business plan

Tasks

July-Sept 2015

August-October 2015

November-December 2015

Jan-March 2016

April-June 2016

Initiation of the change campaign

Passing information to universities

Passing information to hospitals

Political elites

Change achievement

Based on the Gantt chart provided, it is estimated that the change will have been achieved fully by the end of June 2016. By this period, the targeted increase in the number of young students who enrol in healthcare sector courses in different states in Australia is expected to have increased. Most of the responsibility of undertaking these tasks will be for the change management team that has been selected to undertake the project (Hornstein, 2015). Undertaking these tasks as a team will help in ensuring that the level of control towards the operations involved is maintained over time. Before the actual adoption of the change management plan, detailed research in relation to the extent of the issue in the Australian market will be conducted. This will be aimed at so as gain deep insights. This will help in responding to any issues that are raised by the parties participating in the process of achieving the change within the healthcare sector in Australia.

Control mechanisms

There are various issues that may have to be considered while implementing the new dawn initiative in the Australian healthcare. These are the control concepts that will give an indication of the difficulty in achieving the set change plane. One of the key elements is the cost. The cost of implementing the project may become too high to the extent that the entire process ceases to be feasible. Since it is intended to cover the national scope covering all states in Australia, this may happen. To some extent, the project may be abandoned if the costs become too high. At the same time, if the project takes too long to achieve the desired outcomes based on the set timeline, it may lead to eventual termination. Therefore, the timelines that have been set will be adhered to with the provision of only few weeks if the project is to be implemented.

Transitional arrangements

The transitional arrangement that may be facilitated within the specific hospitals in Australia may involve the effective hand over of position. The management of the hospitals within the country will be informed effectively on the need to ensure that the young graduates from different universities within the country are welcomed peacefully. This also involves facilitating the process of induction so as to ensure that they are able to deliver towards the success of the Australian health sector in the long term.

Resources & Costs

The resources required for the implementation of the project will be minimal. The considerations include the travel costs, stationery and internet charges that will be used. Such costs will be significant as to warrant the justification of the progress that has been made towards the implementation of the project.

Risks

The risk management policy adopted will be in line with the specific development at each stage of the process. This will ensure that appropriate measures of hedging against risks are adopted and implemented at each stage of the process. In the long term, it will be effective in terms of allowing the process to run smoothly without any form of external disruptions.

Evaluation of the change/initiative

The evaluation of the success of the initiative will be measured quarterly. This is based on the specific objectives that have been set for the specific quarter of the year. At this point, the points of success or failure will easily be identified since the process will have been broken down into different stages. The focus of phases as opposed to the process as a whole will be effective in terms of controlling the factors impacting on the process.

Dissemination of plan to others

The information relating to the completion of the project will be done through the social media, news article among others. The intention will be to provide the details of the success story in relation to the project to as many people as possible especially the policy makers in the Australian health sector over the strides that have been made through the process.