The Australian Council of Deans of Health Sciences (ACDHS) is the peak representative organisation for Australian universities that provide education in the clinical allied health sciences. We represent universities that provide courses in: audiology; chiropractic, counselling, clinical exercise physiology / sport and exercise science; medical laboratory science; nutrition and dietetics; occupational therapy; optometry; orthoptics; paramedicine; pharmacy; physiotherapy; podiatry; prosthetics and orthotics; psychology; medical radiation science; social work; and speech pathology.
The ACDHS has recognised the need for practical placements to not only be available, but to be cost effective and appropriately distributed, in order for mandatory courses and professional accreditation requirements to be met. Further, the lack of readily available placements nationally is a direct roadblock preventing the much-needed scaling up of allied health courses in order to meet workforce needs. Rural and remote locations as well as metropolitan areas all face inadequate availability and distribution of placements. This is seen as one of the most critical educational issues facing the preparation of the allied health workforce in this country. Currently there is suboptimal supply and demand of allied health professionals in disability services, aged care, health and community services.
There are several factors known to adversely impact the availability of practical placements for allied health students nationally. It is not the intention of ACDHS to define or restate the known current obstacles nor is it the core purpose of this initiative. ACDHS is seeking to develop an evidence based paper that proposes several key solutions to the supply of allied health placements that would allow universities to increase enrolments and/or offer new allied health courses, secure in the knowledge that they would be able to access sufficient numbers, type and high quality placements for students. This wicked problem is multifaceted and will require multiple and/or well integrated whole of sector and government driven solutions.
There is great and pressing need for a fundamental improvement in the system and parameters of how placements are made available and undertaken, in order to overhaul what must become a sustainable systemic response, over the next several years.