Universities join forces on national study to track nursing and allied health graduates

Media release

18 July 2022

Six universities have teamed up to conduct the largest study of employment outcomes for nursing and allied health graduates ever undertaken in Australia.

The Nursing and Allied Health Graduate Outcome Tracking (NAHGOT) study will follow thousands of nurses and allied health professionals for ten years post-graduation, giving researchers the most comprehensive picture of national workplace trends in the sector.

The study, which first began in 2017 as a partnership between Monash University and the University of Newcastle, now brings together a national collaboration of Deakin University, the University of Newcastle, Monash University, The University of Queensland, University of Southern Queensland, and University of South Australia. It is particularly focused on the factors that influence the choice of work location and what changes are needed to solve the ongoing problem of nurse and allied health professional shortages in regional, rural and remote areas.

By linking practice location data from the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency with university administrative records, complemented by the national Student Experience Survey and Graduate Outcomes Survey, the universities expect to add more than 7,000 students to the study each year, with the intention of tracking graduate outcomes for 10 years post-registration.

Professor Vin Versace, Director of Deakin Rural Health and inaugural Chair of the NAHGOT Steering Committee, said the distribution of the healthcare workforce was a key challenge for the equitable delivery of health care, particularly in regional, rural, and remote parts of Australia and universities were the logical choice to undertake tracking of graduate outcomes at scale.

"Unlike other data custodians, universities hold admission and professional placement data not available elsewhere – this is key to understanding the type of graduate that is most likely to live and work in a rural location once they complete their training," Professor Versace said.

Dr Keith Sutton from Monash Rural Health said that most of the previous large-scale graduate tracking research has focussed on the medical workforce whereas the NAHGOT study would contribute to the broader health workforce.

"We expect as the project matures the insights will become a major contributor to workforce planning and augment established efforts in medicine. We've established a framework that allows for future expansion of the NAHGOT study to include other institutions."

Martin Jones from the University of South Australia said that in Australia, and other countries, evaluations of rural health workforce programs aimed at increasing the numbers of nursing and allied health care professionals have been over short periods and not completed at scale.

"This has made it difficult to provide accurate data on how they have addressed rural health workforce force shortages," Mr Jones said.

Southern Queensland Rural Health’s (SQRH) Associate Professor Geoff Argus said NAHGOT was the only large-scale study of its kind focusing on Australian nursing, midwifery, and allied health graduates and the factors that lead to rural practice.

"This project will provide important information to inform future rural health workforce policy and potentially influence the way health training is delivered in rural Australia," Associate Professor Argus said.

SQRH is a collaboration between The University of Queensland, University of Southern Queensland, Darling Downs Health and South West Hospital and Health Service.

All NAHGOT participating universities are funded by the Rural Health Multidisciplinary Training (RHMT) program, with the study design reflecting the objectives of the Commonwealth Department of Health.

Associate Professor Leanne Brown from the University of Newcastle Department of Rural Health said University Departments of Rural Health funded under the RHMT program had a vested interest in tracking where graduates end up working.

"We are also keen to understand how our rural programs may influence students to return to rural and rural practice both in the short and longer term," Associate Professor Brown said.

University of Southern Queensland public health researcher and Senior Associate Dean (Academic Transformation) Professor Marion Gray said universities played an important role in contributing to the wellbeing of health services in regional and remote Australia.

"From nursing to paramedicine, midwifery to sport and exercise professionals, our graduates – and graduates from universities around the country – are the people on ground making a difference in those communities," Professor Gray said.

"Health services are the lifeblood of regional and remote Australia and through the NAHGOT project we hope to continue to support this essential work."

National Rural Health Commissioner Professor Ruth Stewart said she was excited to see the development of the plan to track Nursing and Allied Health Graduate Outcomes.

"The NAHGOT project will give the health sector the data we need to begin to understand where graduates of our Australian universities are working and why, to understand what drives them to work in one way or site in preference to others," Professor Stewart said.

"When we have a better understanding of these things, we can tailor our programs to ensure that we are training the health workforce that our communities need."

For further comment please contact:

Professor Vin Versace: vincent.versace@deakin.edu.au

Dr Keith Sutton: keith.sutton@monash.edu

Associate Professor Leanne Brown: leanne.brown@newcastle.edu.au

Associate Professor Geoff Argus: g.argus@uq.edu.au

Associate Professor Martin Jones: martin.jones@unisa.edu.au

Professor Marion Gray: news@usq.edu.au6

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