Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

The New South Wales Allied Health Workplace Learning Study: barriers and enablers to learning in the workplace

Bradley Lloyd12*, Daniella Pfeiffer1, Jacqueline Dominish1, Gaynor Heading1, David Schmidt1 and Annie McCluskey3

Author Affiliations

1 Health Education and Training Institute, NSW Health, Gladesville, NSW, Australia

2 Centre for Education and Workforce Development, Sydney Local Health District, Rozelle, NSW, Australia

3 Discipline of Occupational Therapy, Faculty of Health Sciences, The University of Sydney, Lidcombe, NSW, Australia

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BMC Health Services Research 2014, 14:134  doi:10.1186/1472-6963-14-134

Published: 25 March 2014



Workplace learning refers to continuing professional development that is stimulated by and occurs through participation in workplace activities. Workplace learning is essential for staff development and high quality clinical care. The purpose of this study was to explore the barriers to and enablers of workplace learning for allied health professionals within NSW Health.


A qualitative study was conducted with a purposively selected maximum variation sample (n = 46) including 19 managers, 19 clinicians and eight educators from 10 allied health professions. Seven semi-structured interviews and nine focus groups were audio-recorded and transcribed. The ‘framework approach’ was used to guide the interviews and analysis. Textual data were coded and charted using an evolving thematic framework.


Key enablers of workplace learning included having access to peers, expertise and ‘learning networks’, protected learning time, supportive management and positive staff attitudes. The absence of these key enablers including heavy workload and insufficient staffing were important barriers to workplace learning.


Attention to these barriers and enablers may help organisations to more effectively optimise allied health workplace learning. Ultimately better workplace learning may lead to improved patient, staff and organisational outcomes.

Workplace learning; Education; Allied health; Continuing professional development