National Health Workforce Dataset

The National Health Workforce Dataset

The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA), in conjunction with the national boards, is responsible for the national registration process for 15 health professions. The data from this annual registration process, together with data from a workforce survey that is voluntarily completed at the time of registration, forms the National Health Workforce Dataset (NHWDS). Data in the NHWDS includes demographic and employment information for registered health professionals. A very small proportion of practitioners complete their workforce surveys on paper forms rather than online. AHPRA provides the completed paper survey forms to the Department for scanning, cleansing, and merging the paper-based survey data into the online registration and survey dataset.

Changes to the NHWDS

AHPRA was established in 2010 under the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme (NRAS). At the commencement of the NRAS, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) was engaged as data custodian of the NHWDS. The AIHW’s contract expired on 30 June 2016, and the Department assumed custodianship of the NHWDS on 1 July 2016. The Department has produced revised NHWDS releases from 2013 onwards. Both the original AIHW data and the Department’s enhanced data from 2013 onwards are publicly available on the Health workforce data tool.

These revised NHWDS releases vary somewhat from the AIHW’s original versions due to minor differences in the method of imputation for survey non-response and to the Department’s enhanced geocoding methods, which support a more granular analysis of the geographic distribution of the health workforce.

Historical Data

Historical health workforce data resources for NHWDS up to 30 June 2016 and prior to Nation Registration are available on the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) website at AIHW Workforce.

Response Rates

Survey response rates for registered and employed health professionals:
In 2020 the overall response rate for all professions was 94.8%.
The 2020 survey response rates by profession are as follows:

Profession Response Rate
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health practice 92.6%
Chiropractic 95.3%
Chinese medicine 97.3%
Dental 95.2%
Medical 98.1%
Medical radiation practice 95.1%
Nursing and Midwifery 94.2%
Occupational therapy 93.5%
Optometry 96.2%
Osteopathy 92.8%
Pharmacy 96.4%
Physiotherapy 92.7%
Podiatry 95.9%
Paramedic 94.6%
Psychology 92.1%

Collecting the data

AHPRA is responsible for the management of the NRAS and as such, they host and maintain the database that manages the scheme. They also take carriage of administering the workforce survey as part of the registration renewal processes. AHPRA creates database extracts from both the registration database and the workforce survey database to build the NHWDS.

Building the NHWDS

The Department has developed a streamlined and substantially automated process for the production of the NHWDS. User intervention is required when the data contains exceptions to define rules and to proceed through each documented step. The process consists of Extract, Transform and Load processes, geocoding of address variables, an imputation method for non-response, metadata being applied, and quality assurance checks on the produced dataset.


Imputation is a process for filling in values missing due to non-response in order to create a complete dataset that can be used for workforce analysis and planning purposes. Imputation replaces missing values with plausible values based on other available information.


A large subcomponent of the cleaning process is consumed in dealing with the location data. There are multiple locations for each health practitioner and varying levels of accuracy in the raw data. The location cleaning process uses files from both AusPost (Australia Post) and the G-NAF (Geographical National Address file) to validate locations. An enhanced approach to geocoding supports more accurate analysis and modelling of the geographic distribution of the health workforce.


An automated process was developed to focus on the collection, storage and use of metadata. Metadata for all variables in the NHWDS are stored in tables and used during the build process. These tables store variable attributes such as labels, descriptions, lengths and any codes and descriptions related to that variable. Using the metadata tables during the build process ensures consistent metadata across datasets and years. Consistent metadata across annual releases supports improved time-series analysis, and an audit trail of changes to all values throughout the process is maintained for transparency. This is very important for data analysis, reporting, and integration to business intelligence. It also allows data dictionaries to be generated automatically using the metadata.

Quality assurance

The quality assurance of the NHWDS is detailed and contains many processes both automatic and Ad-Hoc. These processes compare annual datasets and flag any unexpected results.


The cleansing, imputing, production and release of NHWDS data is an ongoing process that follows AHPRA’s registration renewal cycle:

Profession Renewal
Nurses and Midwives January / February
Medical Practitioners February / March
Allied Heath March / April

Further information

Please contact us for further information or questions on the National Health Workforce Dataset (NHWDS).