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Workforce Support

IMPACT OF THE RENEWED NCSP ON THE PATHOLOGY WORKFORCE

The General Pathology Workforce

There are about 35 Australian laboratories, both public and private, performing cervical screening tests. These laboratories are currently considering options regarding cervical screening following the implementation of the new NCSP. Most laboratories are awaiting the release of clinical management guidelines, performance measures and standards and the Medicare Benefits Schedule item numbers and descriptors before finalising workforce requirements. When considering the workforce impact of these changes individual laboratories may need to consider mergers with other laboratories, ceasing cervical screening entirely or managing the NCSP Renewal within the existing laboratory.

The most significant change required by the NCSP Renewal for the wider pathology workforce is the large increase in HPV testing that will occur from 1 May 2017. Statistical modelling that has been considered by MSAC estimates that testing for high risk HPV will increase from the current 55,000 to 1.3 million annually. For details of the statistical modelling see MSAC 1276 - National Cervical Screening Program renewal.

The Cytology Workforce

Modelling considered by MSAC indicates that following the implementation of the new National Cervical Screening Program the annual cervical cytology workload will decrease from the current level of 2.4 million conventional Pap smears to about 340,000 liquid based cervical cytology cases. This projected workload reduction for cytologists could lead to a reduction in the cervical cytology screening workforce across Australia of about 200 full time equivalent scientists and cytotechnologists (assuming one fulltime cytologist screens an average of 10,000 conventional smears per annum). Although these projections are estimates it is clear that the NCSP Renewal will generate significant changes within Australian cytology laboratories.

The impact of the NCSP Renewal on cytopathologists involved in cervical screening is not likely to be as significant as that projected for scientists and cytotechnologists. However, the effects of widespread HPV vaccination and the change in age to 25 for initial screening are also expected to reduce the workload for cytopathologists working in this field.

Scientists, cytotechnologists and cytopathologists who continue to work in cervical screening will be required to adjust the approach to the examination and reporting of cervical cytology cases from screening to  diagnostic. Assessment will be made on direct-to-vial liquid based cytology specimens rather than split-sample specimens with a coexisting conventional Pap smear. Continuing education and training in this discipline will be of vital importance as laboratories prepare to implement the NCSP Renewal changes.

For further information on continuing education and training see Further Resources.

Career Guidance and Transition Support

The RCPA has engaged Audrey Page and Associates (APA), one of Australia’s oldest and most respected Career Management specialists, as external consultants to provide transition services and a support program to the cytology workforce as part of the NCSP Pathology Workforce Project.

APA services will be delivered in three phases as follows:

Phase 1 – Needs Analysis.  During June and July 2016 APA conducted a detailed needs analysis across all laboratories performing cervical screening.  Each laboratory was able to offer contributions to better define the specific needs of the cytologists potentially affected by the changes to the National Cervical Screening Program to enable APA to tailor the proposed support.

Phase 2 - Preparing for Change. Between July 2016 and January 2017 APA will deliver a series of workshops focusing on building personal skills to cope with ambiguity and change and developing a personal value proposition. The first workshops of this series, entitled “Leading Yourself Through Change”, were delivered in August and September 2016. The second series of workshops in Phase 2, entitled “Value and Direction – Past to Future” will be delivered between October and December 2016

Phase 3 – Preparing for Job Search. Between February and August 2017 APA will deliver a targeted series of workshops providing skilling in key aspects of resume building and interview skills.
 
Workshops will be presented as webinars for those who are unable to attend in person and further resources will be made available on the APA website after the workshops have been delivered.  These resources will include selected material from the workshops and links to relevant supplementary reading and video presentations
 
For further information about these support services or to gain access to the on-line resources please contact Gillian Phillips at the RCPA NCSP Pathology Workforce Project.