Rationale and protocol for the Nursing and Allied Health Graduate Outcomes Tracking (NAHGOT) study: a large-scale longitudinal investigation of graduate practice destinations

Keith Sutton, Alison Beauchamp, Tony Smith, Susan Waller, Leanne Brown, Karin Fisher, Mark Woodfield, Laura Major, Julie Depczynski, Vincent Lawrence Versace, Darryl Maybery, Luke Wakely, Eleanor Mitchell, Daniel W Drumm, Robyn Langham, Jennifer May

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

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Abstract

INTRODUCTION: Inequitable distribution of health workforce limits access to healthcare services and contributes to adverse health outcomes. WHO recommends tracking health professionals from their points of entry into university and over their careers for the purpose of workforce development and planning. Previous research has focused on medical students and graduates' choice of practice location. Few studies have targeted nursing and allied health graduates' practice intentions and destinations. The Nursing and Allied Health Graduate Outcomes Tracking (NAHGOT) study is investigating factors affecting Australian nursing and allied health students and graduates' choice of graduate practice location over the course of their studies and up to 10 years after graduation by linking multiple data sources, including routinely collected university administrative and professional placement data, surveys of students and graduates, and professional registration data. METHODS: By using a prospective cohort study design, each year a new cohort of about 2000 students at each participating university (Deakin University, Monash University and the University of Newcastle) is tracked throughout their courses and for 10 years after graduation. Disciplines include medical radiation practice, nursing and midwifery, occupational therapy, optometry, paramedicine, pharmacy, physiotherapy, podiatry and psychology. University enrolment data are collected at admission and professional placement data are collected annually. Students' practice destination intentions are collected via questions added into the national Student Experience Survey (SES). Data pertaining to graduates' practice destination, intentions and factors influencing choice of practice location are collected in the first and third years after graduation via questions added to the Australian Graduate Outcomes Survey (GOS). Additionally, participants may volunteer to receive a NAHGOT survey in the second and fourth-to-tenth years after graduation. Principal place of practice data are accessed via the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra) annually. Linked data are aggregated and analysed to test hypotheses comparing associations between multiple variables and graduate practice location. RESULTS: This study seeks to add to the limited empirical evidence about factors that lead to rural practice in the nursing and allied health professions. This prospective large-scale, comprehensive study tracks participants from eight different health professions across three universities through their pre-registration education and into their postgraduate careers, an approach not previously reported in Australia. To achieve this, the NAHGOT study links data drawn from university enrolment and professional placement data, the SES, the GOS, online NAHGOT graduate surveys, and Ahpra data. The prospective cohort study design enables the use of both comparative analysis and hypothesis testing. The flexible and inclusive study design is intended to enable other universities, as well as those allied health professions not regulated by Ahpra, to join the study over time. CONCLUSION: The study demonstrates how the systematic, institutional tracking and research approach advocated by the WHO can be applied to the nursing and allied health workforce in Australia. It is expected that this large-scale, longitudinal, multifactorial, multicentre study will help inform future nursing and allied health university admission, graduate pathways and health workforce planning. Furthermore, the project could be expanded to explore health workforce attrition and thereby influence health workforce planning overall.
Original languageEnglish
Article number6407
Number of pages12
JournalRural and Remote Health
Volume21
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 29 Sep 2021

Keywords

  • Australia
  • cohort study
  • graduates
  • health workforce
  • longitudinal study
  • nurses
  • students
  • allied health

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