Core Spine of Competencies

Health care delivery has evolved into a patient-focused, coordinated, multidisciplinary team approach. In this evolving context, although some skills and competencies reside within a particular professional group, many skills and competencies are required across the health care team. Simultaneously, acceptance and utilisation of support level roles across the health and community services sector, for example the Allied Health Assistant role, has grown. This has placed increased importance on the Vocational Education and Training (VET) sector to work with government and industry in the rapid development and deployment of consistently high quality graduates. To cope with this increased demand and pressure, the VET sector will need to ensure their training methods are flexible, effective, efficient, relevant and accessible for those industries and individuals who need them.

Developing a capable and appropriately skilled support level workforce is a key component of the state and national governments response to the increasing demand for quality health care and projected health workforce challenges impacting the health and community services sector. The Victorian Government Department of Health is exploring a range of strategies to encourage the uptake of support level health and community services workforce qualifications and training. One of these strategies is the Core Spine of Competencies. Optin was contracted by the Department of Health to develop a range of guidance documents and resources to support the the uptake and delivery of the Core Spine of Competencies.

In recent times, there has been increasing demand for an explicit training model where all health support workers, regardless of future occupation or discipline, undertake a common set of competencies.  The Core Spine of Competencies (core spine) consists of eight units of competency that provide students with a sound foundation to build a nationally recognised qualification in the health industry while keeping their options open.

The core spine features industry relevant skills and provides a sound introduction to working in the health sector.

These resourses can be downloaded from the Department of Health website

The competencies enable learners to:

  1. Work safely
    Learn the principles and practices of infection control and occupational health and safety.
  1. Work as part of a multi-disciplinary team
    Learn to communicate effectively with health professionals, and use medical terminology. They will learn first aid and gain an understanding of the variety of roles and responsibilities within a multi-disciplinary health team.
  1. Understand client needs
    Learn about basic anatomy and physiology and how to relate to people from a wide range of cultures and backgrounds.
  1. Work with clients
    Learn how to apply these skills to a range of specific client needs in areas by undertaking a hands-on industry placement.

The core spine is not a qualification on its own, however the eight units of competency can contribute towards more than 36 health and community services qualifications. Following completion of this core set of competencies, learners can identify their preferred career/qualification and complete their training in that particular field by undertaking skill set electives specific to the relevant discipline or health care stream.

The identification and introduction of a core spine will enable broader career opportunities for health and community service workers who can greatly expand their career choices and build and develop their careers through ongoing and targeted training and professional development. It will also enable easier career movement and support the development of career pathways and articulation opportunities for the health support workforce.

The core spine will benefit employers by providing a clearer understanding of what the qualification includes and therefore the assistant role within the health and community service sector. The core spine also provides a common base understanding of health and community services to potential health workers, and thus a common knowledge base which employers can expect from graduates.

The core spine facilitates the movement of mature workers into the health and community sector by providing a clear starting point that does not restrict the range of possible options in qualifications or work settings up front. This flexibility will allow learners to experience some (if not all) of their disciplines of interest prior to making a choice about education. Furthermore, a common foundation of competencies will facilitate movement between roles and settings as demand or personal preferences change.

For training providers, a common foundation of competencies provides clarity and economies of scale to underpin their offerings. Resources may be redirected to provide greater flexibility in training provision and offering training in specialist areas, which currently struggle to be a viable prospect.

The Core Spine of Competencies

The eight units of competency that form the core spine of competencies were identified through an analysis of the health and community services training packages and confirmed in consultation with industry and training representatives. A number of supplementary units were then identified as a way of giving context to what are generic skills and to make explicit the fundamentals of client confidentiality and privacy.

The eight core spine units of competency and the four supplementary units of competency are as follows:

Core Spine Units of Competency[1]

  1. HLTAP301B               Recognise healthy body systems in a health care context
  2. HLTFA301C               Apply First Aid
  3. HLTHIR403C              Work effectively with culturally diverse clients and co-workers
  4. HLTHIR404D             Work effectively with Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander people
  5. HLTOHS300B            Contribute to OHS Processes
  6. BSBMED301B           Interpret and apply medical terminology appropriately
  7. HLTHIR301B              Communicate and work effectively in health  
  8. HLTIN301C                Comply with infection control policies and procedures in health work

Supplementary Units of Competency

  1. CHCPROM401B       Share Health information
  2. CHCMH301B            Work effectively in mental health
  3. CHCAOD201D          Prepare for alcohol and other drugs (AOD) work
  4. BSBMED305B           Apply the principles of confidentiality, privacy and security within the medical environment

By bundling the eight units together and presenting them as a foundation for access into the Health and Community Services sector, students undertake units that contribute to a significant number of qualifications that are in skill shortage areas. The suggested supplementary units also appear either as compulsory or elective units in many qualifications

The Guidance Documents and Support Resources

The guidance documents and support resources focus on three key areas:

  • Promotion and consistency of branding of the core spine units
  • Consistency of delivery
  • Continuous improvement  and the provision of quality training and assessment

Ten products have been developed to address these needs.

  1. Introductory information sheet for employers.
  2. Introductory information sheet for students and parents.
  3. Introductory information sheet for RTOs.
  4. Qualification Pathways – a list of related qualifications with specific credit information.
  5. Promotional PowerPoint.
  6. Guidance notes for developing a training program for RTOs and schools.
  7. Knowledge and Skills Map showing the themes and overlaps between the Essential Knowledge and Essential Skills in the competencies.
  8. Community of practice template.
  9. List and links to support resources
  10. List and links to current training providers.

[1] These units of competency are the units which were first identified through a detailed analysis of the health and community services training packages. RTO’s should ensure that they check with the current national Health and Community Services training packages for current units. For more information go to