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Meet Andrew Richardson – AHANA Board Member and Allied Health Assistant

Andrew Richardson is a practising allied health assistant based in the ACT who has been working in the field of soft tissue therapy for the last 18 years, and is a member of the AHANA board. We chatted with Andrew recently about his involvement with AHANA, and the future of the allied health assistant workforce in Australia.

How did you get started as an allied health assistant, and where has it taken you?

I have been involved in health—sports coaching, strength and conditioning, soft tissue therapy—for half of my adult life.

After ten years in soft tissue therapy private practice I wanted a work change to give me more time with my young family.

I was made aware of allied health assistants (AHAs) as an expanding workforce, and completed my cert IV in 2015. I started working in residential aged care two days a week, specialising in physiotherapy, and loved the physical component of the work.

After around nine months I moved into public healthcare. I love this work and have remained part of the Canberra Health Services for eight years and counting, working across all of our subacute rehab services: aged care, brain injury, general rehab, slow stream and amputee management.

What would be a defining event or highlight of your career?

I have three that come to mind.

First would be being the successful applicant for Governance lead AHA for Canberra Health Services in the ACT since 2021 where I got my first experience assisting with AHA governance at the state level.

Second would be being nominated for an Allied Health Assistant of the Year award in 2022, proving my work in my governance duties as Allied Health Assistant Profession Lead was being recognised and appreciated.

Third would be my involvement in this most exciting year of AHANA to date (2022/2023), and opening memberships to the general public.

Can you tell us about your involvement in establishing AHANA?

I was a member of AHANA as a national network and was always hopeful there would an opportunity for AHAs to receive more recognition on a national level.

I had heard AHANA was made into a national association and organised a meeting between myself, my AHA clinical educator, and Ben Turnbull (AHANA CEO) in April 2022. A few weeks later, Ben offered me a position as a Director of AHANA, recognising the experience I had already developed at state level governance. Since then I have enjoyed the challenge of taking my experience from a state level role to assist with implementation at a national level.

It’s been a good challenge utilising the knowledge of all our directors, who work across different sectors of healthcare around Australia.

What are some of your key learnings from establishing AHANA? What were some of the biggest challenges and opportunities?

The challenge of understanding national governance:

  • Which organisations and government sectors should we be talking to?
  • How do we expand the community awareness of what an allied health assistant does?
  • How we can benefit healthcare moving forward?
  • What steps do we need to go through in order to implement our national frameworks through the key sectors in Australia in which AHAs work: healthcare, NDIS, aged care and private practice)?

Why is establishing a national network for AHAs so important? Where do you see it heading in the future?

I see the future of AHANA as a key reference point for any employers of AHAs.

The goal is to get AHANA established enough that it becomes ‘highly recommended’ for employers to hire AHAs with an AHANA membership, as this will be seen as the ‘gold standard’.

What’s your vision for the future AHA workforce? What would you like to see done differently within the AHA profession to improve healthcare outcomes?

I see such potential in the AHA workforce nationwide to be better utilised within all aspects of the health sector, especially aged care.

There are current projects at state level trying to demonstrate the effectiveness of even just a single multidisciplinary AHA within an aged care facility, and how this can significantly improve functional outcomes within this demographic of the population. We already have a significant number of AHA graduates annually, now we just need positions created in order to employ this workforce.

Learn more about AHANA.

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