Factors Affecting the Retention of Indigenous Australians in the Health Workforce: A Systematic Review

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2018 May 4;15(5):914. doi: 10.3390/ijerph15050914.


Indigenous Australians are under-represented in the health workforce. The shortfall in the Indigenous health workforce compounds the health disparities experienced by Indigenous Australians and places pressure on Indigenous health professionals. This systematic review aims to identify enablers and barriers to the retention of Indigenous Australians within the health workforce and to describe strategies to assist with development and retention of Indigenous health professionals after qualification. Four electronic databases were systematically searched in August 2017. Supplementary searches of relevant websites were also undertaken. Articles were screened for inclusion using pre-defined criteria and assessed for quality using the Mixed Methods Assessment Tool. Fifteen articles met the criteria for inclusion. Important factors affecting the retention of Indigenous health professionals included work environment, heavy workloads, poorly documented/understood roles and responsibilities, low salary and a perception of salary disparity, and the influence of community as both a strong personal motivator and source of stress when work/life boundaries could not be maintained. Evidence suggests that retention of Indigenous health professionals will be improved through building supportive and culturally safe workplaces; clearly documenting and communicating roles, scope of practice and responsibilities; and ensuring that employees are appropriately supported and remunerated. The absence of intervention studies highlights the need for deliberative interventions that rigorously evaluate all aspects of implementation of relevant workforce, health service policy, and practice change.

Keywords: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander; attrition; health personnel; health workforce; indigenous; job satisfaction; retention; stress; turnover intention; workforce development.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Australia
  • Culturally Competent Care / organization & administration*
  • Culturally Competent Care / standards
  • Delivery of Health Care
  • Health Personnel
  • Health Services, Indigenous / organization & administration*
  • Health Workforce*
  • Humans
  • Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander*
  • Workplace