AHPRA (Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency) has begun publishing statistics of healthcare registrations which show that half of both the nursing and medical practitioner populations are distributed either side of 45 years of age. In particular, more than 10% of practicing medical practitioners are over 65, and may soon leave a serious hole in our healthcare system.

Pharmacists, however, are at the opposite end of their cycle, with the shortages of the ‘90s driving increased university intakes so that half the population are no older than 35. Women represent 90% of nurses and midwives, 40% of medical practitioners, and 60% of pharmacists.

The demographics of our various professions will impact on practitioner styles, management, and practice structures long into the future. Our increasingly ageing population demands an ever expanding healthcare system; which competes against other industries and other countries for its skilled labour, and is constrained in its capacity to increase training opportunities.

The Council of Australian Governments initiated the formation of AHPRA to improve flexibility in our health workforce; and of Health Workforce Australia to manage and oversee its reform. As well as improving supply of practitioners, reforms will include new models of care and redesigning of roles in multi-disciplinary healthcare teams.

An untrained observer can see that over the next decade, professional roles must be realigned to match the resources available, and the maturing crop of young pharmacists may find themselves taking on a wider range of responsibilities in response to need.

References:

  1. Health Workforce Australia. Australia’s Health Workforce Online. Adelaide, Australia. Available from www.ahwo.gov.au. Accessed 11 April 2013.
  2. Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency. AHPRA. Melbourne, Australia. Available from www.ahpra.gov.au. Accessed 11 April 2013.
  3. National Health Workforce Taskforce. Health Workforce in Australia and Factors for Current Shortages. KPMG; 2009.