Diversity in the Australian health workforce

18 Feb 2021

What makes a safe and qualified doctor? Why do we need a diverse health workforce, and how do we ensure we have one? These are some of the big questions guiding this episode of our podcast Taking care.

Host Susan Biggar is joined by Dr Dinesh Palipana, an Australian doctor, lawyer and disability advocate with a unique and relevant story, and Dr Susan O’Dwyer, a practitioner member on the Medical Board of Australia and a medical administrator in Queensland.

Listen to Dr Palipana’s journey to becoming Australia’s first quadriplegic medical intern in Queensland, Australia, following a serious accident: ‘I never lost the dream of wanting to be a doctor. I thought about it every single day, but I didn’t know how.’

He shares some of his challenges, what he learned and some victories – expected and unexpected, overt and hidden: ‘There’s those physical things … but there’s also the social effects, and those are significant. It has a rippling effect on family, relationships, finances, education and employment.’

It’s in his role as a doctor that we hear how Dr Palipana makes a real difference.

Dr Palipana, who is Queenslander of the Year for 2021, describes how he can develop a unique connection with his patients because of his experiences as a patient himself. He says that ‘patient-centred care is a phrase we throw around a lot these days but it’s really important because people are our business and autonomy is something that we value as an ethical concept. We really need to put the patient first, but that often gets forgotten.'

Dr O’Dwyer describes the perspective of the regulator when it comes to ensuring the safety of the public in registering health practitioners, and why it’s important to encourage diversity in the workforce. She discusses the Medical Board of Australia’s work to facilitate safe practice by practitioners from many backgrounds and contexts, saying that the Board is ‘there to protect the public, but we’re there to do it in a way that supports practitioners as well.'

In this episode, there is mention of suicide. If this topic makes you anxious, it causes distress or if you have children with you, it might not be for you. Please reach out to someone who can help keep you safe or you can call Lifeline on 1300 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636.

Listen to the full episode.

The Taking care podcast series offers professional and consumer perspectives on current issues and answers some frequently asked questions about public safety in healthcare. Download and listen to the latest Taking care episode today. Ahpra releases a new episode fortnightly, discussing current topics and the latest issues affecting safe healthcare in Australia. You can also listen and subscribe on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and by searching ‘Taking care’ in your podcast player.

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Page reviewed 18/02/2021