Senior lecturer Richard Baldwin is the Director of Programs for the Centre of Health Services Management. Faileen James is the Senior Director for the Statewide Planning and Coordination Branch of Queensland Department of Health. She was part of the selection panel that chose UTS to develop three postgraduate health service planning courses. Available to students from 2010, Baldwin and James talk to U: about the new programs and what they mean for students and the community.
A good health service planner needs to be able to understand change and also know how to effect change. They need to be able to understand the challenges clinicians face on a day-to-day basis in the workplace in order to know whether their planning is realistic. They also need to have a close working relationship with people in the system and a good capacity for facilitation and workshops. It’s a very challenging role that requires a very wide range of skills indeed – communication is everything.
The Centre for Health Services Management (CHSM) was first established in 2000 as a joint initiative between the Faculty of Nursing, Midwifery and Health, and the Faculty of Business. The goal of the centre is to advance ideas and practices beneficial to health care practitioners, institutions and consumers. We prepared the successful bid to develop and deliver three university courses in health services planning by demonstrating to the Departments of Health in Queensland and New South Wales that we understand what they want, and showed a level of flexibility in the way we were going to provide the programs to meet the needs of the future students.
To do this, we’re developing three separate courses. The Graduate Certificate in Health Services Planning is designed to meet entry level requirements, the Graduate Diploma is for mid-career planners and the Masters for senior planners.
I imagine that, initially, most of the students undertaking these courses will be people working within the health system, however the courses are certainly not restricted to them. There are a number of employees in both the private and public health system who have health services planning as the main basis of their job, or at least part of it. Students completing the program will really enhance their employment prospects in terms of senior roles in the health system in a planning function.
The new program will strengthen UTS’s close partnership with two of the major departments of health in Australia. They’re very keen to be fully involved with this project, from beginning to end. We’re establishing our panel of planners – senior health planners from both states – to help us with the curriculum design and the case studies to use as part of the education programs. We’ll also be calling on them to assist us with teaching once the programs commence. Our close industry alignment and connections will ensure our programs are not only kept up to speed with current issues but also meet the needs of the marketplace.
To minimise travel and the need for students – particularly interstate students – to take time off work, we’ll be changing the timetable of our subjects offerings next year to a block mode. This means students will be able to complete their course requirements back-to-back over two sets of four consecutive day blocks. It will be one of the only programs of its kind in Australia.
I think it’s fair to say CHSM is successfully creating the next generation of expert health service planners.
I’ve been with the Queensland Department of Health for two years. In that time it quickly became apparent there wasn’t the required depth or breadth of skills in service planning amongst our staff. I started looking for opportunities to up-skill staff and there weren’t any. The options were that we develop something ourselves or we go to the university sector and ask them to do it for us.
We decided to go with the university sector in the development of these new courses because of the educational resources they offer. Our staff also gave us feedback that they preferred to have a postgraduate course that would give them formal recognition of their learning. Many service planners tend to be educated and looking for postgraduate qualifications.
We’ve always had a true partnership with the New South Wales Department of Health, often commiserating together about the lack of formal education in health services planning. Then we finally decided to do something about it. We went through an open tender process and short-listed two universities to interview. Besides having a good reputation, UTS showed flexibility in their approach to addressing the departments’ needs, including what we thought our staff needs were for education.
It’s imperative that good health service planners have thorough communication skills. They need to be very good project managers and have some fairly technical skills in data analysis and research. They also need to be very organised people and have an understanding of the health system.
There is a national shortage of experienced service planners so staff are in high demand. I don’t think people realise that service planning is a much-needed discipline. Health service planners are the ones who tell the government and its departments where population growth and consequent health service demand will be generated, thus enabling government to properly plan for the right placement and type of services into the future. By providing these courses, UTS is helping to ensure society will get the right services, in the right places for the right people.
Both the NSW and Queensland health departments have two representatives each on a high-level advisory committee. I’m one of them and I sit along with UTS staffers to finalise the course content. All the members of this committee are experienced public sector service planners who will bring on-the-ground practical experience to the discussions.
There is also a panel of ‘expert’ service planners from across the departments who will provide advice to this committee. Between the two of us we’re sure to get very strong service planning input from experienced practitioners. We’ll ensure the course meets the needs of service planners operating in the real world and ensure academic theory is converted into practical skills. That way students will be able to apply those skills immediately back in their work environments.
Author: Katia Sanfilippo
Issue 06, September 2009
Photographer (R Baldwin and streetscape): Joanne Saad
Photographer (F James): Marissa Warburton
U: is the magazine of the University of Technology, Sydney. For more U: stories, visit the UTS: Newsroom