Australian Health Review Australian Health Review Society
Journal of the Australian Healthcare & Hospitals Association
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Factors affecting job satisfaction of Aboriginal mental health workers working in community mental health in rural and remote New South Wales

Catherine Cosgrave A D , Myfanwy Maple B and Rafat Hussain C
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Department of Rural Health, Faculty of Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences, The University of Melbourne, 49 Graham Street, Shepparton, Vic. 3630, Australia.

B School of Health, University of New England, Armidale, NSW 2350, Australia. Email: mmaple2@une.edu.au

C ANU Medical School & Research School of Population Health, Centre for Research on Ageing, Health and Well-Being, The Australian National University, Acton, ACT 0200, Australia. Email: rafat.hussain@anu.edu.au

D Corresponding author. Email: ccosgrave@unimelb.edu.au

Australian Health Review - https://doi.org/10.1071/AH16128
Submitted: 12 June 2016  Accepted: 28 October 2016   Published online: 5 December 2016

Abstract

Objective The aim of the present study was to identify factors affecting the job satisfaction and subsequent retention of Aboriginal mental health workers (AMHWs).

Methods Five AMHWs working in New South Wales (NSW) for NSW Health in rural and remote community mental health (CMH) services participated in in-depth, semi-structured interviews to understand how employment and rural living factors affected workers’ decisions to stay or leave their CMH positions.

Results Using a constructivist grounded theory analysis, three aspects negatively impacting the job satisfaction of AMHWs were identified: (1) difficulties being accepted into the team and organisation; (2) culturally specific work challenges; and (3) professional differences and inequality.

Conclusions Policy and procedural changes to the AMHW training program may address the lower remuneration and limited career opportunities identified with regard to the Bachelor Health Sciences (Mental Health) qualification. Delivering training to increase levels of understanding about the AMHW training program, and cultural awareness generally, to CMH staff and NSW Health management may assist in addressing the negative team, organisational and cultural issues identified.

What is known about the topic? The Bachelor Health Sciences (Mental Health) qualification and traineeship pathway undertaken by AMHWs differs significantly from that of other health professionals working in NSW Health’s CMH services. The health workforce literature identifies that each health professional group has its own culture and specific values and that forming and maintaining a profession-specific identity is an extremely important aspect of job satisfaction for health workers.

What does the paper add? AMHWs working in rural and remote NSW CMH services commonly experience low levels of job satisfaction, especially while undertaking the embedded training program. Of particular concern is the health sciences qualification not translating into NSW Health’s ‘professionalised’ workplace, as well as having negative effects with regard to remuneration and career opportunities within NSW Health. In addition, role challenges involving cultural differences and managing additional professional and personal boundaries negatively affects the job satisfaction of AMHWs.

What are the implications for practice? The current structure of the AMHW training program creates workplace conditions that contribute to job dissatisfaction among rural and remote-based AMHWs. Many issues could be rectified by NSW Health making changes to the degree qualification obtained under the training program, as well as raising the level of understanding about the program and Indigenous cultural awareness generally among CMH staff and NSW Health management.


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