Working well: Strategies to strengthen the workforce of the Indigenous primary healthcare sector

Crystal Jongen, Janya McCalman, Sandy Campbell, Ruth Fagan

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Background: The capacity of the Indigenous primary healthcare (PHC) sector to continue playing a crucial role in meeting the health needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians is in large part reliant on the skills, motivation and experience of its workforce. While exhibiting many workforce strengths, the sector faces significant challenges in building and maintaining a strong and stable workforce. Drawing on data from one Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Service (ACCHS), this study reports what is working well and what could be improved to strengthen the Indigenous PHC sector workforce. 

Methods: Using grounded theory methods, interviews with 17 ACCHS staff from a range of organisational positions were transcribed, coded and analysed. This paper focuses on the strategies identified that contribute towards strengthening the Indigenous PHC workforce. 

Results: Four overarching strategies for Indigenous PHC workforce strengthening were identified. These were Strengthening Workforce Stability, Having Strong Leadership, Growing Capacity, and Working Well Together. A range of enabling factors at the macro, community, organisational and individual levels were also identified. 

Conclusion: Indigenous PHC services are already implementing many important workforce-development strategies that are having a positive impact on the sector. There are also several persistent challenges which need to be addressed through action at organisational and structural levels. Approaches to workforce strengthening in Indigenous PHC should be tailored to local needs to ensure they address the unique workforce challenges experienced in different contexts.

Original languageEnglish
Article number910
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalBMC Health Services Research
Publication statusPublished - 29 Nov 2019
Externally publishedYes


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