“The true creator is necessity, who is the mother of our inventions.” – Plato
The wisdom of Plato has resonated these past two years. Our health workforce – central in this pandemic – is in critical condition. This is a golden opportunity for change.
The problems are manifesting themselves in many ways. Employers are having difficulty recruiting health professionals from at home and abroad. Staff are feeling burned out from the unrelenting pressure and are leaving the profession in frustration and despair. Most importantly, patients are experiencing poorer health outcomes flowing from the limitations of overstretched and tired health workers caring for them.
This is indeed a wicked problem.
We must assume the pandemic is here for some time yet, so we need long-term solutions to the workforce crisis that reflect the ongoing circumstances.
The problem is not new. Many employers and governments in Australia have tried strategies to build the workforce, including the Australian Government’s National Medical Workforce Strategy 2021-2031 and many other initiatives focusing on regional and rural shortages.
Unfortunately, many approaches have been piecemeal, have been met with resistance from advocacy groups and act as band-aids rather than attending to the bleeding wound. A new approach is essential.
Drawing on our experience working with government and healthcare organisations, we have identified 10 elements of the crisis and sketched out potential solutions. The elements and solutions can be grouped under three themes.
We must think outside the box otherwise our staff will crumble, and the health system will crumble with it.
We are seeing the impacts of the health workforce crisis on staff, patients and the wider community. Governments, administrators and employers are trying to fix the problem, but a radical approach and brave system reform is needed. Advocacy groups need to focus on staff and patient outcomes, rather than membership priorities.
Frontline staff have great ideas for change; we should listen to them. It will take courage to try new models, but that courage needs to be mustered otherwise the health system will be in grave danger.
In paying homage to Plato, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks said “Hope, even more than necessity, is the mother of invention.” This sentiment rings true.
Get in touch to discuss how we can help you to combat workforce challenges.
Connect with Dr Paul Eleftheriou on LinkedIn.
Prepared with input and support from Rodger Paul and Jack Marozzi.
Published on 14 September 2022.