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Healthcare: useful terms and concepts

We have provided here a list of healthcare-related terms that you might not be familiar with.
Stack of notes with the word Glossary on the top note.
© Griffith University

Throughout learning in healthcare you will come across words, phrases and concepts that might be unfamiliar to you. We have learners from around the world with varied backgrounds in the area of health workforce. Some of the learners might be healthcare professionals who might be familiar with some or all of the jargon, but we might also have recreational learners who have joined the course to learn something new. Consequently, the degree to which you are familiar with the words and concepts used here will vary.



Access: The ability to use the necessary health services by a patient or population. This is a key policy objective and assists people to appropriate the health care resources needed in order to preserve or improve their health

Accreditation: A program recognised by a national body or state agency that measures health services against performance-based and safety/quality standards

Acute care: For patients admitted to hospital and intended to cure illness, alleviate symptoms of illness or manage childbirth.

AHPRA: Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency: The organisation responsible for the implementation of the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme across Australia

Allied health professionals: Health professionals registered under the National Registration Accreditation Scheme. They include professionals working in psychology, pharmacy, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, radiography, optometry, chiropractic, Chinese medicine, podiatry and osteopathy, as well as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health practitioners.

Ambulatory care: Care provided to hospital patients who are not admitted to the hospital, such as patients of emergency departments and outpatient clinics. The term is also used to refer to care provided to patients of community-based (non-hospital) health care services.

Attrition: A term used to refer to the decrease in the size or strength of the workforce by means other than termination of employment.


Clinician: a practitioner who spends most of their total weekly working hours engaged in clinical practice (that is, in diagnosis and/or treatment of patients including recommending preventive action). A clinician may work clinical and non-clinical hours.

Continuing professional development: How health professionals improve their knowledge and maintain their skills throughout their professional lives

Credentialing: The process of assessing and conferring approval on a person’s suitability to provide a defined type of healthcare


Diversity: A multiplicity of human differences among groups of people or individuals


Evidence-based: Making decisions based upon the best available evidence from high quality sources


Future-proof : If you future-proof something, you design or change it so that it will continue to be useful or successful in the future if the situation changes.


Graduate: An individual who has completed all the requirements of a degree/certificate-bearing training program at an educational institution


Health workforce: A comprehensive term to define all people engaged in actions whose primary intent is to enhance health.

Hospital non-specialist: a medical practitioner mainly employed in a salaried position in a hospital who does not have a recognised specialist qualification, and who is not in training to gain a recognised specialist qualification. The category includes interns, resident medical officers, career medical officers and other salaried hospital practitioners.

Horizon scanning: Horizon scanning is used to explore and describe the factors and forces, and their inter-relationships, driving future changes in workforce systems.

Hybrid manager: A hybrid manager in health is a clinician who combines managerial responsibilities with clinical duties.


Internship: A type of training activity that can either be: a) a component of a degree-bearing program or b) entry-level employment that provides an individual with relevant workforce experience


Leader: A leader has a clear and positive vision for the organisation and strives towards that vision. A leader has great motivation and is focussed on ensuring the people around them understand the vision and embrace it. A leader creates change within an organisation and inspires others.

Life expectancy: An indication of how long a person can expect to live.

Long term planning: Planning for the long term and the future based on current performance


Manager: Managers supervise staff in the day-to-day operations of an organisation. “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.” – Peter Drucker

Medical practitioner: Under the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law 2009, a medical practitioner is a person who holds registration with the Medical Board of Australia.

Midwife: A midwife is a person who has successfully completed a midwifery education programme that is based on the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM) Essential Competencies for Basic Midwifery Practice and the framework of the ICM Global Standards for Midwifery Education, recognised in the country where it is located with requisite qualifications to be registered to practice midwifery and use the title ‘midwife’; and who demonstrates competency in the practice of midwifery. Midwives work in partnership with women to give the necessary support, care and advice during pregnancy, labour and the postpartum period, to conduct births on the midwife’s own responsibility and to provide care for the newborn and the infant. A midwife may practise in any setting including the home, community, hospitals, clinics or health units.

The full scope of practice of midwifery is available.


NRAS: National registration board for registered health practitioners

Nurse practitioner: A nurse practitioner is a registered nurse educated and authorised to function autonomously and collaboratively in an advanced and extended clinical role.


OECD: The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) is an intergovernmental economic organisation

Operational planning: An operational plan can be defined as a plan prepared by a component of an organization that clearly defines actions it will take to support the strategic objectives and plans of upper management


Primary Care: the provision of integrated, accessible health services by clinicians who are accountable for:

  • addressing a large majority of personal health care needs,
  • developing a sustained partnership with patients, and
  • practicing in the context of family and community

Professional registration: This is awarded by a licensing body after establishing a professional’s knowledge, skills and competence.


Quality: There are many definitions however according to the WHO quality of care is “the extent to which health care services provided to individuals and patient populations improve desired health outcomes. In order to achieve this, health care must be safe, effective, timely, efficient, equitable and people-centred.”

Qualitative data: Data that has been collected using methods such as surveys, document analysis, focus groups, interviews and other methods to identify and describe key factors in the health workforce system that are likely to impact the supply and demand of workforces (Joint Taskforce on health workforce planning and forecasting.)

Quantitative data: Quantitative data are measures of values or counts and are expressed as numbers.Quantitative data are data about numeric variables (eg how many; how much; or how often).


Residential aged care facilities: (also referred to as nursing homes ): Establishments which provide long-term care involving regular basic nursing care to chronically ill, frail, disabled or convalescent people, or senile inpatients

Remote: The term ‘Remote’ is used to indicate those Australians living in areas that lie within either the ‘Very Remote Australia’ or ‘Remote Australia’ categories of the Australian Standard Geographical Classification Remoteness structure.

Rural: A geographical area located in a non-metropolitan county, or an area located in a metropolitan county designated by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy as being considered rural – Rural localities and towns with a total population of under 1,000 people. ‘Rural’ also forms part of the Rural, Remote and Metropolitan Areas Classification (RRMA). RRMA has been used to classify the geographic location of medical practitioners. In the classification, ‘rural’ zone includes small rural centres (urban centre population between 10,000 and 24,999), large rural centres (urban centre population between 25,000 and 99,000), and other rural centres (urban centre population less than 10,000), with each having an index of remoteness less than 10.5


Short term planning: Typically covers planning for up to a year

Strategic planning: Strategic planning provides an organisation a sense of direction and outlines measurable goals. Strategic planning is a tool that is useful for guiding day-to-day decisions and also for evaluating progress and changing approaches for the future.

Skills mix:

  • the mix of roles in a field of work; the mix of employees in a role
  • the combination of skills available at a specific time
  • may refer to the combination of activities that comprise each role, rather than the combination of different job titles.

Specialist: A clinician who holds specialist registration who has met the eligibility, suitability and qualification requirements identified by the appropriate regulation agency.

Social Determinants of Health: The circumstances in which people are born, grow up, live, work, and age, as well as the systems put in place to deal with illness. In turn, a wider set of forces—economics, social policies, and politics—shape these circumstances


Talent management: The process of selecting the right people, developing their potential and supporting them to make it possible for companies and organizations to reach their goals

Telehealth: The use of electronic information and telecommunications technologies to support and promote long-distance clinical health care, patient and professional health-related education, public health and health administration. Technologies include videoconferencing, the internet, store-and-forward imaging, streaming media, and terrestrial and wireless communications


Workforce planning: The planning process undertaken to ensure that an organisation has the right people, with the right skills at the right time

© Griffith University
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