Aboriginal Health Workers (AHWs) and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners (AHPs) are essential members of the Australian healthcare system, providing culturally sensitive and accessible healthcare to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.
In recent years, there has been a growing recognition of the need to upskill AHWs to become AHPs. AHPs are registered health practitioners with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practice Board of Australia, qualified to provide a wider range of healthcare services, including clinical services like immunisations and wound care.
QAIHC Member, Carbal Medical Services in Toowoomba, is committed to investing in its health care workers’ education and training and upskilling Aboriginal Health Workers to Practitioners.
“This is not only a moral and ethical imperative but also a practical and strategic choice for Carbal Medical Services, it leads to better health care delivery, improved health outcomes and a more culturally sensitive health care system for Indigenous communities,” said Carbal Medical Services General Manager Tamika Campbell.
“Benefits of upskilling from AHW to AHP include increased knowledge and skills, widening the scope of practice, improved career prospects, and the opportunity to work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, clinics, and community health services.”
Ms Campbell said AHWs and AHPs often acted as liaisons between the health care system and communities, leading to improved health outcomes, increased healthcare access and better overall community health.
Kristy Purnell and Jannah De Brassec are two AHWs who recently completed their qualifications to transition to AHPs. They have worked at Carbal Medical Service in Toowoomba and Warwick for over four years, and are passionate about providing high-quality healthcare to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in their community.
“Before, we focused more on providing community-based health promotion and education services,” said Kristy. “But now, we provide a wider range of healthcare services, including clinical services. I have been able to assist the nurses with wound care, immunisation, chronic diseases, telehealth support, antenatal care and much more. As an AHP I can access additional Medicare item numbers, as well as upload Shared Health Summaries for clients.
Jannah said upskilling to become an AHP had given her a greater sense of confidence and professionalism.
“I wanted to gain knowledge to help the community,” she said. “Studying has given me not only more knowledge but also confidence in my work. I can utilise MBS item numbers I couldn’t before, and I’m able to help other team members and nurses more in the clinic.”
In addition to supporting Kristy and Jannah to upskill from AHW to AHP, Carbal Medical Service is currently providing support and guidance to 9 Indigenous staff members across the organisation who are currently upskilling to Aboriginal Health Workers while employed in roles such as Receptionist, Transport Officers, and Care Coordinator.