Patterns of resident health workforce turnover and retention in remote communities of the Northern Territory of Australia, 2013-2015

Deborah J. Russell, Yuejen Zhao, Steven Guthridge, Mark Ramjan, Michael P. Jones, John S. Humphreys, John Wakerman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

Background: The geographical maldistribution of the health workforce is a persisting global issue linked to inequitable access to health services and poorer health outcomes for rural and remote populations. In the Northern Territory (NT), anecdotal reports suggest that the primary care workforce in remote Aboriginal communities is characterised by high turnover, low stability and high use of temporary staffing; however, there is a lack of reliable information to guide workforce policy improvements. This study quantifies current turnover and retention in remote NT communities and investigates correlations between turnover and retention metrics and health service/community characteristics. Methods: This study used the NT Department of Health 2013-2015 payroll and financial datasets for resident health workforce in 53 remote primary care clinics. Main outcome measures include annual turnover rates, annual stability rates, 12-month survival probabilities and median survival. Results: At any time point, the clinics had a median of 2.0 nurses, 0.6 Aboriginal health practitioners (AHPs), 2.2 other employees and 0.4 additional agency-employed nurses. Mean annual turnover rates for nurses and AHPs combined were extremely high, irrespective of whether turnover was defined as no longer working in any remote clinic (66%) or no longer working at a specific remote clinic (128%). Stability rates were low, and only 20% of nurses and AHPs remain working at a specific remote clinic 12 months after commencing. Half left within 4 months. Nurse and AHP turnover correlated with other workforce measures. However, there was little correlation between most workforce metrics and health service characteristics. Conclusions: NT Government-funded remote clinics are small, experience very high staff turnover and make considerable use of agency nurses. These staffing patterns, also found in remote settings elsewhere in Australia and globally, not only incur higher direct costs for service provision-and therefore may compromise long-term sustainability-but also are almost certainly contributing to sub-optimal continuity of care, compromised health outcomes and poorer levels of staff safety. To address these deficiencies, it is imperative that investments in implementing, adequately resourcing and evaluating staffing models which stabilise the remote primary care workforce occur as a matter of priority.

LanguageEnglish
Article number52
Pages1-12
Number of pages12
JournalHuman Resources for Health
Volume15
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 15 Aug 2017

Fingerprint

Northern Territory
Health Manpower
turnover
resident
Nurses
nurse
Health
health
community
staffing
Health Services
Primary Health Care
health service
Direct Service Costs
Continuity of Patient Care
staff
Rural Population
compromise
Outcome Assessment (Health Care)
continuity

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2017. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.

Keywords

  • remote health
  • rural workforce
  • health workforce
  • fly-in/fly-out
  • rural health services
  • Aboriginal
  • Aboriginal health practitioner
  • remote area nurse
  • turnover
  • retention

Cite this

Russell, Deborah J. ; Zhao, Yuejen ; Guthridge, Steven ; Ramjan, Mark ; Jones, Michael P. ; Humphreys, John S. ; Wakerman, John. / Patterns of resident health workforce turnover and retention in remote communities of the Northern Territory of Australia, 2013-2015. In: Human Resources for Health. 2017 ; Vol. 15. pp. 1-12.
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abstract = "Background: The geographical maldistribution of the health workforce is a persisting global issue linked to inequitable access to health services and poorer health outcomes for rural and remote populations. In the Northern Territory (NT), anecdotal reports suggest that the primary care workforce in remote Aboriginal communities is characterised by high turnover, low stability and high use of temporary staffing; however, there is a lack of reliable information to guide workforce policy improvements. This study quantifies current turnover and retention in remote NT communities and investigates correlations between turnover and retention metrics and health service/community characteristics. Methods: This study used the NT Department of Health 2013-2015 payroll and financial datasets for resident health workforce in 53 remote primary care clinics. Main outcome measures include annual turnover rates, annual stability rates, 12-month survival probabilities and median survival. Results: At any time point, the clinics had a median of 2.0 nurses, 0.6 Aboriginal health practitioners (AHPs), 2.2 other employees and 0.4 additional agency-employed nurses. Mean annual turnover rates for nurses and AHPs combined were extremely high, irrespective of whether turnover was defined as no longer working in any remote clinic (66{\%}) or no longer working at a specific remote clinic (128{\%}). Stability rates were low, and only 20{\%} of nurses and AHPs remain working at a specific remote clinic 12 months after commencing. Half left within 4 months. Nurse and AHP turnover correlated with other workforce measures. However, there was little correlation between most workforce metrics and health service characteristics. Conclusions: NT Government-funded remote clinics are small, experience very high staff turnover and make considerable use of agency nurses. These staffing patterns, also found in remote settings elsewhere in Australia and globally, not only incur higher direct costs for service provision-and therefore may compromise long-term sustainability-but also are almost certainly contributing to sub-optimal continuity of care, compromised health outcomes and poorer levels of staff safety. To address these deficiencies, it is imperative that investments in implementing, adequately resourcing and evaluating staffing models which stabilise the remote primary care workforce occur as a matter of priority.",
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Patterns of resident health workforce turnover and retention in remote communities of the Northern Territory of Australia, 2013-2015. / Russell, Deborah J.; Zhao, Yuejen; Guthridge, Steven; Ramjan, Mark; Jones, Michael P.; Humphreys, John S.; Wakerman, John.

In: Human Resources for Health, Vol. 15, 52, 15.08.2017, p. 1-12.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

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AU - Zhao, Yuejen

AU - Guthridge, Steven

AU - Ramjan, Mark

AU - Jones, Michael P.

AU - Humphreys, John S.

AU - Wakerman, John

N1 - Copyright the Author(s) 2017. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.

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N2 - Background: The geographical maldistribution of the health workforce is a persisting global issue linked to inequitable access to health services and poorer health outcomes for rural and remote populations. In the Northern Territory (NT), anecdotal reports suggest that the primary care workforce in remote Aboriginal communities is characterised by high turnover, low stability and high use of temporary staffing; however, there is a lack of reliable information to guide workforce policy improvements. This study quantifies current turnover and retention in remote NT communities and investigates correlations between turnover and retention metrics and health service/community characteristics. Methods: This study used the NT Department of Health 2013-2015 payroll and financial datasets for resident health workforce in 53 remote primary care clinics. Main outcome measures include annual turnover rates, annual stability rates, 12-month survival probabilities and median survival. Results: At any time point, the clinics had a median of 2.0 nurses, 0.6 Aboriginal health practitioners (AHPs), 2.2 other employees and 0.4 additional agency-employed nurses. Mean annual turnover rates for nurses and AHPs combined were extremely high, irrespective of whether turnover was defined as no longer working in any remote clinic (66%) or no longer working at a specific remote clinic (128%). Stability rates were low, and only 20% of nurses and AHPs remain working at a specific remote clinic 12 months after commencing. Half left within 4 months. Nurse and AHP turnover correlated with other workforce measures. However, there was little correlation between most workforce metrics and health service characteristics. Conclusions: NT Government-funded remote clinics are small, experience very high staff turnover and make considerable use of agency nurses. These staffing patterns, also found in remote settings elsewhere in Australia and globally, not only incur higher direct costs for service provision-and therefore may compromise long-term sustainability-but also are almost certainly contributing to sub-optimal continuity of care, compromised health outcomes and poorer levels of staff safety. To address these deficiencies, it is imperative that investments in implementing, adequately resourcing and evaluating staffing models which stabilise the remote primary care workforce occur as a matter of priority.

AB - Background: The geographical maldistribution of the health workforce is a persisting global issue linked to inequitable access to health services and poorer health outcomes for rural and remote populations. In the Northern Territory (NT), anecdotal reports suggest that the primary care workforce in remote Aboriginal communities is characterised by high turnover, low stability and high use of temporary staffing; however, there is a lack of reliable information to guide workforce policy improvements. This study quantifies current turnover and retention in remote NT communities and investigates correlations between turnover and retention metrics and health service/community characteristics. Methods: This study used the NT Department of Health 2013-2015 payroll and financial datasets for resident health workforce in 53 remote primary care clinics. Main outcome measures include annual turnover rates, annual stability rates, 12-month survival probabilities and median survival. Results: At any time point, the clinics had a median of 2.0 nurses, 0.6 Aboriginal health practitioners (AHPs), 2.2 other employees and 0.4 additional agency-employed nurses. Mean annual turnover rates for nurses and AHPs combined were extremely high, irrespective of whether turnover was defined as no longer working in any remote clinic (66%) or no longer working at a specific remote clinic (128%). Stability rates were low, and only 20% of nurses and AHPs remain working at a specific remote clinic 12 months after commencing. Half left within 4 months. Nurse and AHP turnover correlated with other workforce measures. However, there was little correlation between most workforce metrics and health service characteristics. Conclusions: NT Government-funded remote clinics are small, experience very high staff turnover and make considerable use of agency nurses. These staffing patterns, also found in remote settings elsewhere in Australia and globally, not only incur higher direct costs for service provision-and therefore may compromise long-term sustainability-but also are almost certainly contributing to sub-optimal continuity of care, compromised health outcomes and poorer levels of staff safety. To address these deficiencies, it is imperative that investments in implementing, adequately resourcing and evaluating staffing models which stabilise the remote primary care workforce occur as a matter of priority.

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