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Workforce shortage Australia

Addressing the workforce shortage in Australia

Sonographers are the highly skilled health professionals that perform the majority of comprehensive medical diagnostic ultrasound services.

However, for over a decade, there has been a compounding sonographer workforce shortage which is now critical. The ASA estimates that in 2019 there was a shortfall of at least 3,000 sonographers

Medical diagnostic ultrasound is often the first diagnostic and imaging service accessed by patients for many medical conditions including pregnancy, cancer and a wide range of other diseases. Across Australia, patient access to timely quality diagnostic ultrasound services is now at risk due to the critical shortage of sonographers.

We know that the most significant barrier to addressing this shortage is the poor availability of sonographer clinical training placements.

With most diagnostic imaging (70%) provided in private practice, private businesses can no longer afford to provide an adequate supply of sonographer training placements due to the significant resource and financial cost associated with the provision of clinical training placements.

What is the risk

  • A shortage of sonographers directly affects patients’ access to timely quality diagnostic ultrasound services.
  • Delays in accessing these services can result in increased cost to the patient and the health system, due to having to treat a more advanced health condition and is associated with avoidable poor (sometimes catastrophic) health outcomes for the patient.
  • If patients are unable to access ultrasound services, they will likely be referred to other most costly diagnostic imaging such as CT or MRI. This also significantly increases the likelihood the patient doesn’t receive the diagnostic exam quickly or at all.
  • Poor availability of sonographers can impact the availability of ultrasound appointments and is linked to high waiting times for non-acute services, staff burn out and workplace injury. 

The solution

We need all Australian governments to support initiatives to assist both private and public health services across the country to increase the number of clinical training placements, for both postgraduate and undergraduate sonographer students. 

To support discussion around the critical sonographer workforce shortage facing our health services, the ASA has prepared the following Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).

Building a sustainable sonographer workforce in Australia

In March 2023, the ASA hosted an industry Roundtable event in Canberra to discuss the sonography workforce and propose solutions to current concerns. The Roundtable brought together over 20 leaders from across the world of sonography and beyond.

The ASA has produced a report from that initial discussion, which contains the key points and recommendations recorded at the Roundtable. The ASA will use this report to advocate its key recommendations to Government, industry, the education sector, and the wider sonography profession. The ASA plans to hold another Roundtable event with Government and industry partners, to present and discuss the recommendations and their implementation.

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