Data source and key concepts

National Health Workforce Data Set (NHWDS)

The voluntary Workforce Surveys are administered to all registered health practitioners by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) and are included as part of the registration renewal process. These surveys are used to provide nationally consistent workforce estimates. They provide data not readily available from other sources, such as the type of work done by, and job setting of, health practitioners; the number of hours worked in a clinical or non-clinical role, and in total; and the numbers of years worked in, and intended to remain in, the health workforce. The surveys also provide information on registered health practitioners who are not undertaking clinical work or who are not employed. Response rates for the NHWDS workforce surveys are generally high, although it will vary by profession. Updated response rates are not published every year, however the 2015 response rates published on the NHWDS website are in the 90 to 95% range on average. An imputation process is employed to correct for non-response which creates a complete dataset that can be used for workforce analysis and planning. Imputation replaces missing values with plausible values based on other available information. The information from the AHPRA workforce surveys, combined with AHPRA registration data items, comprise the NHWDS.

Past and present surveys have different collection and estimation methodologies, questionnaire designs and response rates. As a result, care should be taken in comparing historical data from the AIHW Labour Force Surveys undertaken prior to 2010 with data from the NHWDS.

Health workforce data is available for public access through the Department of Health’s Health Workforce Data Tool (HWDT) and the numbers in this publication reflect those extracted using the HWDT as at 21 April 2021. For medical specialists, the numbers are those employed, as specialists, in their primary specialty. As such, there may be differences between the data presented here and that published elsewhere due to different calculation or estimation methodologies or data extraction dates. The HWDT uses a randomisation technique to confidentialise small numbers. This can result in differences between the column sum and total and small variations in numbers from one data extract to another.

Further information regarding the health workforce surveys is available at National Health Workforce Dataset.


References

DoH (Department of Health) 2020. Health Workforce. Viewed 3 May 2021.

Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia 2019. Approved programs of study. Viewed 3 May 2021.

Psychology Board of Australia 2020. Registrant Data - Reporting period: 1 October 2019 to 31 December 2019. Viewed 3 May 2021.

Psychology Board of Australia 2021. Registration standards. Viewed 3 May 2021.

RANZCP (Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists) 2020. Become a member. Viewed 3 May 2021.


Mental health workforce key concepts

Key concept Description
Area of practice endorsement Psychologists who practice in an approved area of psychology may be eligible for an area of practice endorsement. In order to obtain an area of practice endorsement, a psychologist must, in addition to having met the requirements for general registration, complete formal accredited tertiary study in an approved area of practice, followed by a period of supervised practice (Psychology Board of Australia 2021).
Benchmark data Responses to the surveys have been weighted to benchmark figures to account for non-response based on registration data supplied by AHPRA. For medical practitioners, the benchmark data used are the number of medical practitioners registered by state and territory (using place of principal practice) by main specialty of practice by sex and age group. For nurses and midwives, the benchmark data used are the number of registered practitioners in each state and territory (based on location of principal practice) by division of registration, age group and sex. For psychologists, the benchmark data used are the number of registered practitioners in each state and territory (based on the location of principal practice), by broad registration, age group and sex. Weighting included an identification of persons with an endorsement of ‘clinical psychology’, ‘clinical neuropsychology’ and ‘other’ (all other psychologists).
Clinical FTE Clinical FTE measures the number of standard-hour workloads worked by employed health professionals in a direct clinical role. Clinical FTE is calculated by the number of health professionals in a category multiplied by the average clinical hours worked by those employed in the category divided by the standard working week hours. The NHWDS considers a standard working week to be 38 hours for nurses and psychologists and 40 hours for psychiatrists.
Clinical hours Clinical hours are the total clinical hours worked per week in the profession, including paid and unpaid work. The average weekly clinical hours is the average of the clinical hours reported by all employed professionals, not only those who define their principal area of work as clinician. Average clinical weekly hours are calculated only for those people who reported their clinical hours (those who did not report them are excluded). 
Employed

In this report, an employed health professional is defined as one who:

  • worked for a total of 1 hour or more, principally in the relevant profession, for pay, commission, payment in kind or profit; mainly or only in a particular state or territory during a specified period, or 
  • usually worked but was away on leave (with some pay) for less than 3 months, on strike or locked out, or rostered off.

This includes those involved in clinical and non-clinical roles, for example education, research, and administration. ‘Employed’ people are referred to as the ‘workforce’. This excludes those medical practitioners practising psychiatry as a second or third speciality, those who were on extended leave for 3 months or more and those who were not employed.

Full-time equivalent Full-time equivalent (FTE) measures the number of standard-hour workloads worked by employed health professionals. FTE is calculated by the number of health professionals in a category multiplied by the average hours worked by those employed in the category divided by the standard working week hours. In this report, a standard working week for nurses and psychologists is assumed to be 38 hours and equivalent to 1 FTE. Like other medical practitioners, FTE measures for psychiatrists are based on a 40 hour standard working week. This differs from the approach used in Mental health services in Australia reports published before 2004–05, and with some earlier AIHW labour force reports. FTE numbers presented in this section will therefore not be easily comparable with those reports.
Nurse

To qualify for registration as a registered or enrolled nurse in Australia, an individual must have completed an approved program of study (Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia 2019). The usual minimum educational requirement for a registered nurse is a 3 year degree or equivalent. For enrolled nurses the usual minimum educational requirement is a 1 year diploma or equivalent.

A mental health nurse is an enrolled or registered nurse that indicates their principal area of work is mental health.

Psychiatrist A psychiatrist is a qualified medical doctor who has completed specialist training in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of mental illness and emotional problems. To practice as a psychiatrist in Australia, an individual must be admitted as a Fellow of the Royal Australian & New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP). Psychiatrists first train as a medical doctor, then undertake a medical internship followed by a minimum of 5 years specialist training in psychiatry (RANZCP 2020).
Psychologist The education and training requirement for general (full) registration as a psychologist is a 6 year sequence comprising a 4 year accredited sequence of study followed by an approved 2 year supervised practice program. The 2 year supervised practice program may be comprised of either an approved 2 year postgraduate qualification, a fifth year of study followed by a 1 year internship program or a 2 year internship program ( Psychology Board of Australia 2021).
Total hours Total hours are the total hours worked per week in the profession, including paid and unpaid work. Average total weekly hours are calculated only for those people who reported their hours (that is, those who did not report them are excluded).