Indigenous Territorians studying to become health practitioners are being urged to apply for this year's annual Aboriginal Health Practitioner Scholarship Scheme.
Four scholarships, worth up to $5000 are on offer for people wanting to complete the HLT40213 Certificate IV in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Primary Health Care.
The course prepares students to be able to advocate for the rights and needs of clients and community members, undertake basic health assessments, assist in the planning and implementation of basic health care and identify community health issues, needs and strategies.
Becoming a health practitioner could also alleviate the Northern Territory's shortfall of health professionals, which has reached alarming levels.
A Northern Territory Government spokesman from the Department of Health said applicants must be Northern Territory residents who are either full-time students currently studying, or enrolled to study the HLT40213 Certificate, and must be of Indigenous and/or Torres Strait Islander descent.
"The Department of Health is committed to building the capacity of the Aboriginal Health Practitioner profession and workforce, and these scholarships are an important element of that commitment," he said.
"The Certificate IV in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Primary Health Care is an important qualification which provides rural and remote Aboriginal people a career in health.
"Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners play a key role in delivering comprehensive and culturally safe primary health care."
There is a critical shortage of health professionals in the Northern Territory and especially remote communities, where half the nurses leave within four months.
During a multi-year study of staff turnover in 53 NT Government remote clinics, researchers from six Australian universities, working with the Northern Territory Department of Health, found only 20 per cent of nurses and allied health professionals stayed in their positions for 12 months.
The paper, Remote health workforce turnover and retention: what are the policy and practice priorities?revealed "an extremely high turnover of staff" during the period of 2013-2015, where rates reached an alarming 148 per cent every year.
Professor John Wakerman, the study's chief investigator, said the higher turnover was associated with significantly higher hospitalisation rates and higher health costs, and steps need to be taken to keep health professionals working in remote communities.
Luckily, the study made way for some trailblazing discoveries on how to reduce the churn of staff, one of them being "prioritising Indigenous training and employment and mandating a culturally safe work context."
"There is no silver bullet. It's a complex issue requiring a bundle of strategies," professor Wakerman said.
"Based on our analysis of NT data and drawing on international evidence we describe three broad approaches for successfully retaining remote area health staff.
"Firstly, universities need to target enrolment into health training and deliver appropriate, contextualised education.
"Second, health services need to address underlying system issues, such as adequate funding, to ensure a safe and supportive work environment.
"Finally, services need to offer customised individual and family support packages."
The researchers estimated if staff turnover in remote NTG clinics were halved, the potential savings to the Territory health system would be about A$32 million per year.
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