Welcome to our second newsletter for 2021.
In the last newsletter we called for applications for appointment as clinical advisors and for appointment to the Registration and Notification Committee of the Board. Thank you to all practitioners who applied for these positions.
This newsletter features an article on the role of the Board and how the Board works in partnership with other stakeholders. We also have some important information for students who have or are due to graduate this year.
Chair, Occupational Therapy Board of Australia
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Since 2018 Ahpra and the National Boards have been conducting an annual survey of stakeholder understanding and perceptions of our role and work. The survey found practitioners have relatively high levels of trust and confidence in the Board. The results of these surveys have been published and are available on the Board’s website: 2020 survey results and 2019 survey results.
However, some free text responses indicated that there may be some confusion about the role of the Board and the role of the professional associations, including responses that mentioned the Board advocating for or representing the profession.
With this newsletter now going to students, it gives us an opportunity to outline the role of the Board and what we do and don’t have responsibility for.
The Board works in partnership with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra) to protect the public by implementing the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme (the National Scheme).
Together, the Board and Ahpra regulate the profession by ensuring that only those health practitioners who are suitably trained and qualified can practise in Australia.
The Board protects the public by:
*In NSW and Qld there are other entities, the Occupational Therapy Council of NSW and Office of the Health Ombudsman Queensland, that are involved in managing notifications.
Keeping the public safe in Australia takes more than the efforts of one organisation.
The Board has published a diagram that provides a snapshot of the different regulators and stakeholder organisations in Australia that are relevant to occupational therapists and occupational therapy students. It describes the Board’s role in the regulation of the occupational therapy profession under the National Scheme. It also shows a number of other regulators and stakeholders organisations and how they relate to occupational therapists and occupational therapy students.
We particularly encourage students to download and review the diagram. It is not intended to represent every entity and organisation but gives a useful overview and is a helpful aid for students entering the profession.
As a regulator, the Board’s primary role is to protect the health, safety and wellbeing of the public by ensuring that occupational therapists are competent and fit to practise. It is not the Board’s role to advocate for the occupational therapy profession, this is the role of professional associations – Occupational Therapy Australia and WA Occupational Therapy Association. However, as part of its work the Board engages with a broad range of groups including the professional associations, occupational therapists, occupational therapy students, regulators and government.
I have previous experience with health regulation including with the Occupational Therapists Board of Queensland and with the Board as a member of the Registration and Notifications Committee. I was also a professional advisor for the Occupational Therapy Council of Australia. I am very grateful for the support, guidance and leadership of past and present members of the Board, and am hoping to add to my own personal experience and contribution to the profession.
In my ‘day job’, I am the Director of Scar Care, an occupational therapy private practice working with people with scarring and oedema following trauma, surgery and burns. I’m a credentialed private occupational therapist to the Professor Stuart Pegg Adult Burns Centre at the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, and work as a clinical lecturer at the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences at the University of Queensland.
Occupational therapists have a unique opportunity to fully embrace a holistic approach to healthcare, with our training and experience in the biological, psychological, social and environment factors involved in health and recovery. Our strong focus on health outcome, function and participation is widely respected and sought after in multidisciplinary teams, and is reflected in the strong growth of occupational therapy as a profession. It doesn’t seem so long ago that, after stating you were an OT, you would be presented with the question, ‘What’s that?’ I can’t remember the last time I was asked that question!
As a private practitioner I am very interested in the aspects of health regulation regarding private practice, including the increasing demands for services with the introduction of the National Disability Insurance Scheme, and the outcomes of the Aged Care Royal Commission and Disability Royal Commission. As all regulated health professions continue to expand and evolve, I hope to be involved in the supervision and support of registrants, especially in terms of the multidisciplinary nature of healthcare.
For the me the work of Ahpra and the National Boards is an intersection of areas of particular personal interest: regulation for the public good, and the operation of the health sector. I am a community member, which for me is an opportunity to bring a different perspective to that of the practitioner members. My role is to represent the public and view the issues through the ‘non-practitioner prism’.
I come from a legal background, but have worked, voluntarily and professionally, in the ‘for purpose’ (my preference to ‘not for profit’) health sector for many years. The Board gives me the opportunity to bring both threads together to advance the public good.
My career has mainly been in criminal law, both prosecuting and defending. However, the criminal practice I enjoyed the most was in the not-for-profit sector providing legal services as part of an integrated model to the homeless and marginalised.
I am active in my local community. For the last nine years I have been a director of a community health service in Melbourne as well as a presiding member of the Mental Health Tribunal in Victoria.
I have been exposed to the work of OTs through a number of my roles, and it strikes me as a particularly complex and diverse work environment. In many professions it assists the client if the practitioner can apply a global view of the individual and not restrict themselves to a narrow view of the immediate issue at hand. It seems to me that whole-of-person approach is what is demanded of the OT professional as their standard operating procedure.
By the end of my period of appointment, I want to have made a substantial and valuable contribution to the regulation of the profession. Occupational therapy, as a discipline and a profession, faces a demanding and challenging future. The current landscape includes the Aged Care Royal Commission, Disability Royal Commission, Productivity Commission enquiry into mental health, the Royal Commission into Victoria's Mental Health System, and more to come.
Navigating this future will be challenging and I am keen to help the OT profession, their clients and the Australian public to do so successfully.
There is no place for sexism, sexual harassment or gendered violence in healthcare. Ahpra and National Boards want to remind registered health practitioners of their professional obligations and encourage speaking up about disrespectful behaviour and unprofessional conduct in healthcare.
The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra) and the National Boards have published a joint statement, No place for sexism, sexual harassment or violence in healthcare.
Our expectations of practitioner conduct and respectful, professional behaviour, including maintaining appropriate professional boundaries, are set out in the Board’s Code of conduct.
Practitioners must always treat patients, consumers, students, employees and colleagues with respect. They must always communicate professionally and respectfully with and about others, including when using social media. Respect is a cornerstone of good, professional practice and it is fundamental to the Australian community’s trust in registered health practitioners.
Concerns about a registered health practitioner’s unprofessional conduct, including sexual harassment, should be reported to Ahpra. For more information, visit the Ahpra website.
All registered occupational therapists are required to comply with the Board’s registration standards and declare whether they were compliant when renewing their registration. The Board conducts regular audits to assess registrants’ compliance with the standards to provide assurance to the public and practitioners that the requirements of the National Law are understood and that practitioners are compliant. Registrants are selected at random for audit.
Further information on the practitioner audit is available on the Board’s website, including the contact details of Ahpra’s audit team and customer service line.
The Board would like to remind practitioners and students of what is expected of them in giving, receiving and advising on sharing information about COVID-19 vaccination.
As the national vaccination program is underway, registered health practitioners and students remain critical to this success by:
The joint statement from Ahpra and the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) should be read in conjunction with the standards, codes, guidelines, position statements and other guidance. The Code of conduct explains the public health obligations of registered health practitioners, including participating in efforts to promote the health of the community and meeting obligations on disease prevention.
There is no place for anti-vaccination messages in professional health practice, and any promotion of anti-vaccination claims, including on social media and in advertising, may result in regulatory action. See the Guidelines for advertising a regulated health service for further advice.
The Board expects all occupational therapists to create and maintain clear, accurate and up-to-date health records for every patient. This is essential for the continuing good care of your patients.
The Board’s Code of conduct sets out our expectations of what constitutes good practice when maintaining health records. Good practice involves:
The Board’s registration data report for 1 January to 31 March 2021 is now available. As of this date, there were 25,457 registered occupational therapists in Australia. Of these:
For more data, including registrant numbers by age, gender and principal place of practice, visit our Statistics webpage.
Graduates of an Australian approved program of study can apply for registration online on the Ahpra website at the Graduate applications page. You’ll also find advice on how to apply as well as tips for avoiding common causes of delay and how to ensure your application is complete.
If you’re about to graduate or are set to graduate within the next three months, we recommend you start your application for registration now.
Before you make your application, check you meet all the requirements. Before applying for registration, you must meet the following Board registration standards:
You will also be asked to disclose any criminal history and to declare whether you have any health impairments that may affect your ability to practise.
If you are experiencing financial hardship and are unable to pay the required fees you should contact Ahpra’s Customer Service team via web enquiry or on 1300 419 495 to discuss your individual situation before completing your online application.
As in previous years, the Board will be holding a webinar for new graduates to help you understand your obligations in becoming a registered occupational therapist. The webinar is planned for 20 September 2021 and details of the webinar will be published on the Board’s website. We will also be emailing those students who are expected to complete their studies in 2021.
Again, if you have any questions about the webinar, we welcome your early queries. Please email your queries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Voluntary Assisted Dying Act 2019 (WA) (the Act) came into effect on 1 July 2021. Registered health practitioners need to be aware of the Act and its requirements. There are some provisions that are relevant to all registered health practitioners (and healthcare workers) and some provisions that are more specifically relevant to medical practitioners, nurse practitioners, pharmacists and paramedics.
Resources have been developed by the WA Department of Health and the Voluntary Assisted Dying Implementation Leadership Team in collaboration with stakeholders. These are available at: https://ww2.health.wa.gov.au/voluntaryassisteddying and include the WA Voluntary assisted dying guidelines.
The following resources provide a starting point for health practitioners in understanding their obligations, responsibilities and protections under the Act:
For further information, visit the website.
As of 5 July 2021, Queensland’s Criminal Code Act 1899 is amended under the Criminal Code (Child Sexual Offences Reform) and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2020 to include two new offences (Criminal Code, Chapter 22 – Offences against morality):
These new offences recognise the difficulties victims have in disclosing or reporting abuse, the vulnerability of children, and the risk that perpetrators of child sexual abuse may have multiple victims and may continue to reoffend against particular victims over lengthy periods of time.
The Criminal Code amendment does not replace the mandatory reporting obligations of doctors and registered nurses under the Child Protection Act 1999 (Qld) (the CP Act).
This advice applies to all registered health practitioners; for further information please visit: www.qld.gov.au/law/crime-and-police/types-of-crime/sexual-offences-against-children.
We’ve launched a new-look public register with enhanced search capabilities.
The aim of the enhancements is to make the register easier to use, especially for those in our communities who may have barriers to access.
Some of the changes you’ll see include:
To help users navigate the new-look register, we’ve developed a ‘how to search’ video which is available on our Help and tips page.
If a practitioner has been the subject of a notification to Ahpra or the Board, they may be required by the conditions on their registration to undertake education. This is usually accompanied by a requirement to provide the Board with a reflective practice report demonstrating how they have reflected on the issues that gave rise to the condition, and outlining how they have incorporated these lessons into practice.
New guidance is now available for practitioners who are subject to education or mentoring conditions as part of their registration.
The new guidance: Information sheet – Reflective reports (Education) and Information sheet – Reflective reports (Mentoring) is published under the Monitoring and compliance section on the Ahpra website.
The guidance on developing a reflective report is endorsed by the Board.
National Boards have also approved a new form for review of conditions of undertakings (form ARCD-00) which is published on the Registration Common forms page. Ahpra is also developing guidance for practitioners on the information required by National Boards when considering applications to change or remove conditions or undertakings.
All improvements recommended in the National Health Practitioner Ombudsman’s (NHPO) Review of confidentiality safeguards for people making notifications about health practitioners have now been implemented or are underway.
The review found that Ahpra’s management of confidential and anonymous notifications offered reasonable safeguards for notifiers and was consistent with the practices of other regulators globally.
The NHPO recommendations to strengthen Ahpra’s policies, guidance, communications and systems to further mitigate risk of harm to notifiers have now been implemented. These include:
As part of this work, we also recognised the importance of procedural fairness for practitioners. Following consultation with professional associations and professional indemnity providers, we have published a new guide for staff to help them manage complaints which may have insufficient detail to allow practitioners to respond meaningfully.
We have also published a vexatious notifications framework and introduced new training for staff in how to identify and manage vexatious complaints.
For more information, read the news item.
Ahpra hosts conversations and interviews with people in our community. We discuss current issues, address myths and common questions, and think about what we can do to best protect the public and support the safe provision of healthcare in Australia.
The Taking care podcast series offers professional and consumer perspectives on current issues and answers some frequently asked questions about public safety in healthcare. Ahpra releases a new Taking care episode fortnightly.
Download and listen to the latest Taking care episode today. You can also listen and subscribe on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and by searching ‘Taking care’ in your podcast player.