Specialist palliative medicine physicians and nurses

Specialist palliative medicine physicians

There were 226 specialist palliative medicine physicians employed in Australia in 2016, 0.7% or about 1 in 140 of all employed medical specialists. In addition, there were 3 paediatric palliative care specialists in Australia in 2016. These paediatric specialists are not included in the numbers presented here.

There were 39 medical practitioners who undertook vocational training in palliative medicine in 2016 compared to 80 in 2013 (51.3% decrease). In 2016, there were 48 hospital non-specialists who indicated their intention to undertake vocational training in palliative medicine (DoH 2017).

In 2016, about 3 in 5 (62.8%) employed specialist palliative medicine physicians were female. This was more than double the proportion seen for all medical specialists (30.6%). The proportion of male palliative medicine physicians aged over 55 was higher for males (52.4% of males) than females (23.6%).

Specialist palliative medicine physicians worked on average 39.2 total hours per week in 2016, which was less than the average weekly hours for all employed medical specialists (43.5 hours). Average clinical hours were 29.7 per week which was also less than for all employed specialists (35.9). Total hours worked were, on average, lower for females (37.1 hours) than males (42.8). Average hours worked varied across jurisdictions, ranging from 34.5 hours per week for Victoria to 51.3 hours per week in the Australian Capital Territory.

Nationally, there were 0.9 FTE (0.7 clinical FTE) specialist palliative medicine physicians per 100,000 population in 2016. The rate of FTE specialist palliative medicine physicians across states and territories ranged from 0.7 in Victoria to 1.9 in both the Northern Territory and Australian Capital Territory. There was not a consistent relationship between total FTE and clinical FTE rates across states and territories. For example, the Australian Capital Territory had a higher total FTE rate than Tasmania, but the two jurisdictions had similar clinical FTE rates (Figure Wk.1).

More than 8 in 10 (83.4%) FTE specialist palliative medicine physicians worked mainly in Major cities during 2016. One in 11 (9.2%) FTE specialist palliative medicine physicians worked in Inner regional areas. Taking into account differences in population sizes for each remoteness area, the FTE specialist palliative medicine physicians per 100,000 population was highest for Major cities (1.1 FTE), followed by Outer regional areas (0.7 FTE).

About 9 in 10 employed specialist palliative medicine physicians were mainly working as clinicians (93.8%). About three quarters (76.1%) were employed in a hospital setting, followed by outpatient services (8.8%).

Visualisation not available for printing

Source data:  National Workforce Data Set tables (496KB XLS)

Specialist palliative care physicians over time

Between 2013 and 2016, there was a 29.9% increase in the number of employed specialist palliative medicine physicians. In terms of population rates of employed palliative medicine physicians over time, there has been an increase from 0.7 FTE (0.5 clinical) per 100,000 in 2013 to 0.9 (0.7 clinical) in 2016.

Palliative care nurses

There were 3,457 palliative care nurses employed in Australia in 2016, 1.1% or 1 in 90 of all employed nurses.

In 2016, over 9 in 10 (93.3%) employed palliative care nurses were female. This is slightly higher than the proportion of females among all nurses (89.1%).  About 1 in every 140 (0.7%) palliative care nurses were Indigenous, slightly lower than the proportion for all nurses (1.0%).

Palliative care nurses worked an average of 32.4 total hours per week in 2016, which was less than the total hours worked by all employed nurses (33.4 hours). However, palliative care nurses worked slightly longer clinical hours, on average than all employed nurses (29.9 and 29.5 hours respectively). The total hours worked were, on average, lower for females than males (32.1 hours and 35.6 hours, respectively).

Nationally, there were 12.2 FTE (11.2 clinical FTE) palliative care nurses per 100,000 in 2016. The rate of FTE palliative care nurses across the states and territories ranged from 10.7 in the Northern Territory to 18.4 in Tasmania. The average hours worked varied across jurisdictions, ranging from 30.2 hours per week for Western Australia to 36.3 hours per week for the Australian Capital Territory.

About 5 in 7 FTE palliative care nurses worked mainly in Major cities during 2016 (72.1%), with a further 20.2% working in Inner regional areas. Taking into account differences in population sizes for each remoteness area, the FTE palliative care nurses per 100,000 population was highest for Inner regional areas (13.6 FTE), followed by Major cities (12.3 FTE), dropping to 4.8 in Remote areas.

More than 9 in 10 employed palliative care nurses were clinicians (95.1%). About half (51.4%) of all employed palliative care nurses were employed in a hospital setting, followed by community healthcare services (24.4%) and hospices (14.3%).

Visualisation not available for printing

Source data: National Workforce Data Set tables (496KB XLS)

Palliative care nurses over time

From 2013 to 2016, there was a 5.7% increase in the number of employed palliative care nurses. There was a marginal increase in the population rate of employed palliative care nurses from 12.1 FTE (11.1 clinical FTE) per 100,000 in 2013 to 12.2 (11.2 clinical) in 2016.


 

References

DoH 2017. Palliative medicine 2016 factsheet. Canberra: D0H.

AIHW 2012. Palliative care services in Australia 2012. Cat. no. HWI 120. Canberra: AIHW.

Centre for Palliative Care 2018. Professional Development. Melbourne: Centre for Palliative Care. Viewed 19 January 2018. 

Royal Australian College of Physicians 2016. Training pathways. Sydney: Royal Australian College of Physicians. Viewed 19 January 2018.