Retention in the Allied Health Workforce: Boomers, Generation X, and Generation Y

Article excerpt

The recruitment and retention of allied health workers present challenges for organizations in Australia and internationally. Australia, in common with other developed countries, faces the prospect of a rapidly aging population and the high turnover of younger allied health workers (the majority of whom are female) from employing organizations. Emphases on the individual characteristics of Boomer, Generation X, and Generation Y workers may provide a useful starting base for recruitment and retention strategies, but our study shows that these need to be contextualized within broader political, social, and structural factors that take account of gender and the changing needs of workers over their life span. J Allied Health 2009; 38:215-219.

ALLIED HEALTH PROFESSIONALS are health care practitioners who have undertaken formal and in some cases clinical training in disciplines such as physiotherapy, speech pathology, occupational therapy, and health promotion. The recruitment and retention of allied health professionals within the Australian health workforce presents many challenges for employing organizations, and the difficulties associated with this have been well documented.1,2 Problems of high turnover, professional isolation, and hard-to-fill long-term vacancies are particularly an issue in rural areas in Australia.3"5 Shortages of culturally appropriate allied health workers and health workers who are prepared to work in rural areas are also issues for the United Kingdom, United States, and Australia.6"8 The allied health workforce in Australia is young compared with the general health workforce and is predominantly female.1,9 It is also a more mobile workforce compared with other medical professionals.1

Our study explored the reasons allied health workers from the ages of 20 to 39 and 40 to 60+ yrs stayed in, or left, their positions. Our discussion focuses on the three generational groups that have been categorized in human resources and social sciences literature that fall within the age ranges of Generation X (30-39 yrs), Generation Y (20-29 yrs), and Boomer (40-60+ yrs).10"12 We discuss the employment-related characteristics that have been commonly associated with these generations and examine how othet factors such as gender, family-friendly policies, and flexible work conditions affect the recruitment and retention of younger and older allied health professionals.

AIMS

The broad aim of the study was to explore reasons for the lack of continuity among occupational therapists, physiotherapists, and speech pathologists working in pediatric services in the health and disability sectors in the three states of Western Australia, Tasmania, and Queensland. It was hoped that recommendations addressing recruitment and retention issues would result from the research.

Methods

Our study used a mixed methods approach of both quantitative and qualitative methods. In 2001, a survey was jointly developed between the Institute for Service Professions (Edith Cowan University, Bunbury, Western Australia, Australia) and Therapy Focus Inc. (Bentley, Western Australia, Australia) and designed to elicit a profile of therapists working with children and young people aged 0-18 yrs working in the health, education, and disability sectors in Western Australia, Queensland, and Tasmania. The survey comprised three sections: the respondent's sociodemographic profile, details of their employment history since 1990, and open-ended questions on recruitment, retention, and mobility. The instrument was piloted on a cross section of staff employed at Therapy Focus Inc.

A total of 1 ,685 surveys were mailed to physiotherapists, speech pathologists, and occupational therapists working with children and young people (aged 0-18 yrs) in the government and nongovernment pediatric disability sectors (including those working in the health and education sectors) in Western Australia, Tasmania, and Queensland. …