Academic journal article Australian Health Review

Australian Physiotherapy Workforce at a Glance: A Narrative Review

Academic journal article Australian Health Review

Australian Physiotherapy Workforce at a Glance: A Narrative Review

Article excerpt


Australia is experiencing a continual increase in demand for healthcare workers because of an aging population and health workforce, population growth and an increasing prevalence and burden of disease.1 Although some research has been conducted into the future capacity of the nursing and medical professions, there is paucity in the literature regarding the ability of the physiotherapy profession to meet the increasing and changing needs of the Australian population.2 Anecdotal evidence suggests that many Australian physiotherapists leave the profession early in their careers, with various factors potentially contributing to them exiting the profession.3,4 There is also a recognised maldistribution of the current physiotherapy workforce to metropolitan areas, resulting in reduced access to physiotherapy in regional, rural and remote areas.5,6 Difficulty in recruiting specialised physiotherapists lends weight to the contention that attrition may become a problem in Australian physiotherapy.7

A signi fi cant increase in tertiary training positions for physiotherapy students across Australia has attempted to meet the growing demand of the Australian health workforce.8 However, additional strategies are required to address modifiable factors leading to the attrition of physiotherapists already within the workforce. Reducing attrition may help ease the pressure on the physiotherapy workforce and increase the satisfaction of practicing physiotherapists, to the ultimate benefit of the community. The physiotherapy workforce has many challenges to overcome to enable sufficient current and future healthcare supply. The present review investigates the topic of attrition in physiotherapy, with the aim of answering the following questions:

(1) What is known about the Australian physiotherapy workforce?

(2) What factors contribute to physiotherapists leaving the workforce?

(3) What strategies could be implemented to improve physiotherapy retention?


A literature search was performed in March 2015. Five databases were searched for eligible articles (Allied and Complementary Medicine Database (AMED), Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL), EMBASE, MEDLINE and PubMed). Table 1 shows the search strategy used for Ovid databases (AMED, CINAHL, MEDLINE and PubMed). EMBASE was searched manually using similar search terms as described in Table 1.

Articles were included in the study if they had been published in English since 2004 and addressed one or more of the review questions. Articles were excluded if they were internationally based, focused only on rural staff retention without considering overall physiotherapyworkforce retention or did not contribute to the aims of this paper.

The databases were searched and wider reading, citation tracking and grey literature searching added to the overall pool of articles. The search results were reviewed by two independent reviewers (AP and NK), with differences resolved by consensus. The search results are shown in Fig. 1, revealing that of the 692 articles identified, 24 were included in the present study to inform the content of the literature review.2-4,6-26

Results and Discussion

Australian physiotherapy workforce

Over the past century, the Australian physiotherapy profession has been shaped by world events and local influences, growing and changing almost beyond recognition.19 The number of physiotherapists registered to practice has risen dramatically over time, and physiotherapy is now one of the largest healthcare providers in Australia after nursing and medicine.3 Descriptive statistics have become readily available since the transition to national registration through the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA). There were 24 304 physiotherapists registered in Australia in December 2012,16 increasing to 27 278 physiotherapists by December 2014.22 Although the ongoing growth of registered physiotherapists is promising, at around 4%-5% annually, the demand for physiotherapists in Australia also continues to grow and change. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.