August 2020

Issue 15 – August 2020


Chair's message

I’d like to welcome student and graduate Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners to the National Board newsletter. You will now receive the newsletter alongside your registered colleagues. This is the first time we have sent our newsletter to students across the country. You are a valued part of our profession and we hope you will find the Board newsletter helpful now and into the future.

It was pleasing to see that our profession was highlighted by governments as being a priority to respond to any COVID-19 outbreak in the communities where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners work. We established a sub-register of eligible Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners who had been recently registered, fast-tracking their return to the workforce. Practitioners who opted in to the sub-register were re-registered for up to 12 months from July this year.

At the time of writing, 23 previously registered practitioners have decided to join the sub-register. Those practitioners will be contacted again as the sub-register is wound up (up to 12 months from July 2020), when they’ll be asked if they would like to renew their registration with the Board for another year.

The Board has met twice this year, once in person in Melbourne in February and again online in May. Board members have been very responsive as we struggle with the changes to how and when we meet, again highlighting the flexible nature of our profession to step up and meet the challenges put to us.

Renee Owen

Chair, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practice Board of Australia

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Board news

Telling the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioner story to governments

We have made steady progress on the Board’s strategic objectives during 2019-20. Those objectives include telling the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioner story to governments and the broader community so that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners can be understood and utilised to their full capabilities as registered health practitioners.

There is a lot of work to do to achieve a better understanding of the role of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners in the broader health workforce. The Board’s role is to make sure a registered health practitioner is qualified and competent to carry out the work they do in their everyday practice, whether that is through individually sought or employer-led training and education.

In keeping with the objectives of the National Law, the Board does not define what a registered practitioner can or cannot do in their everyday practice (their chosen scope of practice) but rather, leaves that up to the individual and/or employer.

We are making sure these messages are clear to government and community stakeholders.

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Revised accreditation standards now in effect

The revised Accreditation standards took effect on 1 June 2020.

The Accreditation standards: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health practice (2019) expand the eligibility for programs of study to seek accreditation for registration purposes. All the Certificate IV Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Primary Health Care Practice programs of study are accredited and approved, and now other programs of study can apply for accreditation, for example a Diploma course.

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New standards, codes and guidelines

The Board published five revised registration standards on 1 December 2019:

  • Professional indemnity insurance
  • Continuing professional development (and CPD guidelines)
  • Recency of practice
  • English language skills, and
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander.

Several supporting documents have also been published on the Board’s website to help explain the registration standards, codes and guidelines: see the FAQs page.

The Board is contributing to the work to revise its Code of conduct, which is shared with 10 other health professions regulated in the National Scheme.

Keep a lookout for the consultation paper on the draft revised Code of conduct in the coming months and have your say.

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Registration

Latest workforce data released

The Board publishes quarterly data profiling Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioner workforce, including a number of statistical breakdowns about registrants.

The latest data cover the period 1 April to 30 June 2020. There are 812 registered practitioners as at that date, an increase of 93 on the previous quarter.

Registration type and subtype by principal place of practice

Registration types ACT NSW NT QLD SA TAS VIC WA No PPP Total
General 2 176 219 148 69 4 29 150
807
General and Specialist
3 1
 


5
Non-practising
3 1 1




5
Total 2 179 220 149 69 4 29 160 0 812

Registration type by principal place of practice percentages

Registration type by principal place of practice percentages

For more information, including registration by age group and gender, visit our Statistics page.

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Students and graduates

Protecting our health practitioners of the future: clinical education principles

National Boards, accreditation authorities and Ahpra, with the Australian Government through the health and education portfolios, have issued national principles for clinical education during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This unique multi-sector collaboration to protect Australia’s future health workforce is helping students learning to become health practitioners during the COVID-19 pandemic continue their studies and graduate.

Some student placements have been paused, cancelled or otherwise modified as health services respond to the pandemic. This has led to uncertainty and change for students and educators as education providers, accreditation authorities, clinical supervisors and others explore alternative options for students to progress towards graduation.

The principles aim to provide helpful guidance about how placements can occur safely, taking into account the significant changes across the health and education sectors due to COVID-19. Visit the National principles for clinical education during COVID-19 to find out more.

We thank students, educators and supervisors for their patience and flexibility.

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Graduate registration in 2020

Graduating soon? Here’s what you need to know.

Ahpra’s planning for this year’s graduate registration campaign is underway. As we all know, this year is unlike any we’ve had before. The COVID-19 pandemic has affected many aspects of our lives including clinical placements for students. We are taking COVID-19 into account as we plan for this year’s campaign.

The campaign will start soon. Keep an eye on the Board's News page for the announcement that registration is open.

Avoid delays with your application

Once registration is open, check out the resources on the Graduate applications page of the Ahpra website before you submit your application. This will help ensure your application is complete, so we don’t have to come back to you seeking clarification or more information. We can then get you registered as soon as we receive your graduate results.

Customer experience survey and improvements to our service

Last year Aphra conducted the first ever survey of new graduates to hear about their experience registering for the first time. We contacted just over 24,000 graduates and had a great response rate of over 15 per cent to the voluntary survey.

We’re very grateful to those graduates who participated, their feedback will help us improve the experience for this year’s graduates. Some of the improvements we plan to make for this year’s campaign include:

  • more guidance on how to correctly certify identity documents
  • emailing graduates with updates to complement the online application tracker and give more detail about where your application is at in the assessment process.

We hope this will make first-time registration a smoother, less stressful experience.

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National Scheme news

No room for racism in healthcare

In April, the Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association (AIDA) issued a media release detailing instances of medical practitioners denying Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people access to culturally safe healthcare. They were seeking testing for COVID-19. These cases in rural New South Wales and Western Australia involved refusal of care on the grounds of patient identity and racist stereotypes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders not practising self-hygiene.

Racism from registered healthcare professionals will not be tolerated, particularly given the vulnerability of Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples to the virus. They continue to experience prejudice and bias when seeking necessary healthcare. Discrimination in healthcare contributes to health inequity.

Ahpra and the National Boards encourage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who have experienced culturally unsafe incidents of care or refusal of care by a registered health practitioner to submit a notification or complaint to Ahpra.

In February 2020, the National Scheme’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and cultural safety strategy 2020-2025 was released, proving our commitment to achieving patient safety for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples as the norm and the inextricably linked elements of clinical and cultural safety. The strategy strives to achieve the national priority of a health system free of racism.

All registered health practitioners are required to comply with their profession’s Code of conduct, which condemns discrimination and racism in health practice.

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Podcasts on the pandemic and beyond

Ahpra has released many podcasts on areas of interest to all health professionals in the Taking care podcast series. The topics covered in the podcasts include pandemic and non-pandemic-related issues.

One episode, A glimpse of healthcare in our rural and remote communities, features a discussion with a podiatrist, a pharmacist and an optometrist about their experience of working in rural and remote areas. Host Tash Miles leads the conversation with pharmacist Hannah Mann, podiatrist Amy Nelson, and proud Murrawarri woman and optometrist Lauren Hutchinson, about this important and unique part of the Australian health landscape. We hear about some of the benefits and challenges faced by patients and practitioners in rural and remote areas of our country.

In another episode, Telehealth in the pandemic era, podiatrist Michael Nitschke talks about how he has pivoted his practice to support his patients, physiotherapist Dr Viktoria Molloy discusses how she’s adapted her practice, and occupational therapist Leanne Hopkins speaks about telehealth for occupational therapy.

Ahpra releases a new episode every fortnight, discussing current topics and the latest issues affecting safe healthcare in Australia. 

Download and listen to the latest Ahpra Taking care podcast episode today. You can also listen and subscribe on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and by searching ‘Taking care’ in your podcast player.

If you have questions or feedback about the podcasts, email communications@ahpra.gov.au.

Taking care podcast image July 2020 

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False and misleading advertising on COVID-19

Ahpra and National Boards recognise the vital role of registered health practitioners in treating and containing the COVID-19 emergency. We know you are working hard to keep people safe in a demanding and fast-changing environment.

A consequence of the current situation is greater public awareness of individual health and wellbeing, leading to many questions about treating and containing the disease. Members of the public are likely to seek reassurance and answers about COVID-19 from their trusted health professional. While most health practitioners are responding professionally to the COVID-19 emergency and focusing on providing safe care, Ahpra and National Boards are seeing some examples of false and misleading advertising about COVID-19.

It is vital that health practitioners only provide information about COVID-19 that is scientifically accurate and from authoritative sources, such as a state, territory or Commonwealth health department or the World Health Organization (WHO). According to these sources, there is currently no cure or evidence-based treatment or therapy which prevents infection by COVID-19 and work is underway on a vaccine.

Other than sharing health information from authoritative sources, you should not make advertising claims about preventing or protecting people from contracting COVID-19 or accelerating recovery from COVID-19. To do so involves risk to public safety and may be unlawful advertising. For example, Ahpra and National Boards are seeing some advertising claims that spinal adjustment/manipulation, acupuncture and some products confer or boost immunity or enhance recovery from COVID-19 when there is no acceptable evidence to support this.

We will consider action against anyone found to be making false or misleading claims about COVID-19 in advertising. For a registered health practitioner, breaching advertising obligations is also a professional conduct matter which may result in disciplinary action, especially where advertising is clearly false, misleading or exploitative. There are also significant penalties for false and misleading advertising claims about therapeutic products under the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989.

For more information, see Ahpra’s Advertising resources page.

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Keep in touch with the Board

Call Ahpra on 1300 419 495 or 08 8901 8562 if you:

  • have any questions
  • need help filling in forms, or
  • are having trouble explaining to your employer about requirements. You can ask your employer to call this number.

The Board’s website has information on registration forms, registration standards, codes and guidelines, and news. If you have already lodged your application, you may call the registration officer responsible for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioner applications directly on 08 8901 8562.

To contact the Board, please call Jill Humphreys on 03 8708 9066 or send an email to jill.humphreys@ahpra.gov.au.

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Page reviewed 31/08/2020