Health workforce shortages are commonly described in media and policy discourse as an increasing problem for many ‘advanced liberal’ nations, including Australia. While the structural and economic explanations for this have become the subject of considerable debate and resourcing, less attention is paid to the social meanings ascribed to particular areas of healthcare work and to how these might also shape career and employment trajectories. This lecture will consider what a more constructivist approach to understanding the ‘problem’ of workforce shortages might contribute. In particular, I will introduce the first national study of the HIV general practice workforce and explore some of the changing clinical, professional and political meanings of HIV medicine for the general practitioners who provide care to people living with HIV around the country.
About the speaker
Dr Christy Newman is a Senior Research Fellow at the National Centre in HIV Social Research where she has contributed to a wide range of research projects in HIV and blood borne viruses, general practice and primary health care, Aboriginal health, and health in the media since completing her PhD in 2004. She has a disciplinary background in communication and cultural studies, and her strengths lie in applying qualitative social research tools to the fields of public health and health services, with a particular focus on conceptual framing, cultural politics, representation and discourse. Her current research is mostly focused on the experiences and aspirations of the Australian health care workforce and the patients with whom they work. She is particularly interested in the changing meanings of work and profession in general practice and primary health care, especially for those clinicians and allied health workers who are engaged with diverse populations, often marginalised or affected by social stigma in different ways, such as people living with HIV, gay men, Illicit drug users and indigenous Australians.
Dr Newman is the recipient of the 2010 Paul Bourke Award for Early Career Research, an award established by the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia in memory of a past academy president, Professor Paul Francis Bourke (1938-1999).