Shaping the Future of the Medical Workforce
The Global Health Alliance and World Health Organization (WHO) have declared that “there is no health without a workforce”, underlining the vital role of the medical/healthcare workforce as the cornerstone of our health systems. This workforce refers to all the people who deliver or assist in the delivery of health services, or help operate healthcare facilities. They are essential in building the resilience of communities and health systems to respond to disasters caused by natural or man-made hazards.
Our current healthcare system is consistently progressing with better skilled health professionals alongside advancements in medical products and technologies to ultimately improve the delivery of health services to the public at large.This is unfolding before our very eyes with the COVID-19 pandemic, which the world was not prepared for initially. Today, just one year from the time the pandemic began, we are better equipped for the battle, with vaccines and other solutions being rolled out to curb this unprecedented situation.
However, a primary concern regarding the medical field is if our medical/healthcare workforce is sufficiently effective. Is there a need for us to shape and improve on the future of this workforce?
The current medical workforce
A report from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) shows that we are facing a shortage of physicians in both primary care and speciality care, including in areas like pulmonology, critical care, and infectious diseases, which are in high demand right now. As such, the number of healthcare workers needs to increase dramatically to meet the demand in the coming years.
There are various shortcomings to the medical field, one of which is the challenge of recruiting more medical workers. Firstly, according to Professor Chris Baldwin, the CEO & Provost of Newcastle University Medicine Malaysia (NUMed), there is an ageing population of medical practitioners who will be retiring from their medical roles in the near future. “It is therefore imperative that we have a ready pool of practitioners who are trained and well-prepared to meet the high demands of the profession,” he said.
Furthermore, he added that there is a lack of reliable pathways to ensure better career advancements, such as for medical assistants to secure better opportunities in moving up the ladder. This may discourage many people from considering a medical profession.
In the end, what we need is an ecosystem of programmes designed for better learning and understanding of the medical field, and the recruitment of students or trainees, aimed at developing medical skills and reshaping career pathways.
A brighter future?
Global health problems create shared responsibilities for health workers but some care providers have difficulties in coping with the rapidly evolving healthcare systems. Doctors, for example, are increasingly challenged to keep up with the vast advancements in science and medicine. Hence, it is imperative for healthcare organisations to proactively plan for the future.
Well-defined roles and responsibilities of the medical workforce will ensure that the relevant services are delivered effectively to our communities. There should also be an assessment of skills and specialisations required to fill the respective positions in our healthcare system such as doctors, nurses, and pharmacists who carry distinctive specifications.
Community partnerships can help in the recruitment of healthcare providers. Medical organisations should consider partnering with public health departments, social service organisations, and law enforcement and community development groups in order to shape a better future of our medical workforce by identifying the needs of our community and establishing the best solutions to our needs.
Perhaps one of the most important partnerships to consider should be that with medical universities and community colleges. Developing relationships with medical institutions is key to any successful medical workforce plan. This is crucial because medical schools are responsible for producing the future medical workforce and medical students’ career choices as health professionals begin in medical schools.
In line with that, NUMed, which is a part of the internationally renowned Newcastle University, UK, offers world-class medical education to students on Malaysian shores. Among others, NUMed provides undergraduate degrees in Medicine (MBBS) and Biomedical Sciences (BSc), as well as opportunities for foundation and postgraduate study. Its globally acclaimed programmes are designed to be responsive to the changing needs of both the Malaysian and global healthcare system, allowing its students and graduates to stay apace with current and new developments and practices.
In addition, NUMed establishes relationships with the various players in the health and other related industries in order to ensure that its programmes are relevant, and graduates are equipped with the knowledge, understanding, skills, and competencies required for real-life scenarios.
NUMed’s MBBS students in particular will be able to obtain a UK medical qualification that can open up wider options for career development, and create an effective ecosystem for medical learning. They will have an opportunity to undertake a period of study in the UK or elsewhere during their eight-week elective at the end of their fourth year. Upon successful completion, they will be eligible for provisional registration as a doctor with both the UK General Medical Council (GMC) and the Malaysian Medical Council (MMC).
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