Threats and opportunities for RTs and imaging technologists

A recently released workforce strategy poses both threats and opportunities for Health Professionals engaged in medical radiation and imaging technology.

On the plus side, Victoria’s growing population, particularly in older age groups, will lead to increased demand for diagnostic and therapeutic services and provide job and career opportunities for:

  • Medical imaging technologists (radiographers)
  • Nuclear medicine technologists
  • Radiation therapists
  • Sonographers
  • Radiation oncology medical physicists
  • Diagnostic imaging medical physicists.

However, the Department of Health intends to meet this demand by making more use of ‘support-level workforces’ and by using nurses to take x-rays in regional and remote areas. As you will no doubt be aware, this is an approach the VHPA is extremely concerned about and have been actively campaigning against.

During 2012 and 2013 the Department undertook a series of consultations to understand the issues affecting the ‘supply, retention, distribution and capacity of the workforce across the Victorian health system’.

It found that over the next few years there are likely to be additional need for medical radiations and imaging technologists in regional centres as cancer centres in Ballarat, Albury-Wodonga, Geelong, Traralgon and Bendigo are expanded.

However, some of the workforce barriers and issues that were identified were:

  • Low public awareness of many of the professions, which impacts on their ability to attract suitable candidates for courses and employment
  • Mismatches between the number of students and trainees and available clinical placements, as well as a poor alignment between the number of graduates and the available junior positions, particularly in diagnostic radiography
  • The potential for advanced practice roles to provide additional skills, interest and diversity of practice, particularly for people mid-career
  • Difficulties attracting and retaining staff in rural and regional areas.

In response to these challenges, the Workforce Strategy identifies a range of policy goals to be implanted over the next four years, including:

  • Expansion of the range and use of advanced practice roles across the professions
  • Increased use of support-level workforces across the professions
  • Increasing the number of professionals with formal supervision skills
  • Increasing the use of simulation training to develop and maintain skills
  • Formalisation of cluster and rotational arrangements for pre-registrants
  • Increased awareness of medical radiation and imaging professions and roles
  • Improved distribution of the medical radiation and imaging workforce across Victoria.

The VHPA has been actively involved in representing the views and interests of members in the consultations over this Workforce Strategy.

“With the ageing of the population and general population growth, it is not surprising that demand for Health Professionals is growing,” said Andrew Hewat, VHPA Assistant Secretary and Sonographer.

“Our challenge is to make sure we turn this demand into good job opportunities for graduates and rewarding careers for those of us already in the workforce. We particularly need to keep a close eye on the potential for our professions to be eroded around the edges through the use of less-qualified support staff and nurses,” said Andrew Hewat.

>> Please comment below and let us know if the jobs of RTs and medical imaging technologies are at risk in your workplace

>> Read the full Workforce Strategy here