Welcome to our mid-year 2023 newsletter! This edition includes a reminder about your professional obligations when working, a look at our website homepage redesign, and some highlights of the National Law reforms passed in May. There is also information about the new Easy English resource for the public that explains the shared Code of conduct.
In March we said farewell to Ms Sally Cunningham, our practitioner member from Victoria. Our sincere thanks to Sally for all her valuable contributions to the regulation of occupational therapists. Our newest Board member, Ms Kate Andrews, speaks to us about why she loves being an occupational therapist, her experiences in the field, and her interest in becoming a practitioner member of the Board.
With the rapidly changing practice environment, if there are topics relating to occupational therapy regulation that you would like us to explore in future editions of the newsletter, we welcome your suggestions.
Chair, Occupational Therapy Board of Australia
back to top
Another successful registration renewal period closed in December. Thanks to everyone who renewed on time and especially to those who got in early. While renewal is an annual reminder, it’s important to know that under the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law, you have obligations throughout the year.
In addition to renewing your registration every year, the following professional obligations apply to all registered health practitioners. These include to:
There are some obligations that hopefully won’t apply to you, but it’s important to know about them in case they do. These are to:
There are forms to use when making these declarations – for more information see Ahpra’s Common forms webpage.
You may have already seen the refreshed design of our website homepage, which went live in February. The vibrant colour and images are designed to make the homepage more engaging, and dropdown menus at the top of each page should make it easier for people to find what they’re looking for. Any links you had bookmarked will continue to work because all addresses for webpages, documents and forms remain the same.
Your thoughts on this change are important and feedback is welcome. Please tell us what you think via this quick survey.
New Easy English information about the shared Code of conduct is now available. This easier to understand information will help people in the community who find it hard to read and understand English know what standards of conduct they can expect from an occupational therapist.
The shared Code of conduct applies to occupational therapists and was updated last year to improve patient safety. As well as being a guiding document for health practitioners, the code is an important document for the public. The code outlines what the public can expect when they see a registered occupational therapist, including information about respect, culturally safe care, privacy and confidentiality, and communication.
The new Easy English information is on the Board’s website along with other resources for the public.
As well as resources for the public, there are resources to help practitioners understand and apply the code. These resources include FAQs and case studies and are available on the Board’s website.
For more information you can visit the Board’s Code of conduct page.
Kate Andrews is our newest practitioner member from Victoria. Appointed in late March, here she tells us in her own words what inspired her to join the Board.
I have loved working as an occupational therapist in various roles throughout my career, and I am keen to make a contribution to the profession and professional standards as this ultimately supports the community. I still believe there is much we can do to understand and respond to Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and diverse communities, and joining the National Board seemed like a fantastic opportunity to do this.
It was my mum who suggested I explore occupational therapy as a career, when I was 16 years old. This was following work experience in another profession where the reality of the role hadn't met my expectations (so this was a genuine case of mums know best). I sought out work experience in a unit working with people with an acquired brain injury and loved the work. I loved the creative problem-solving and working with the person to understand what was important to them and how we could work with them to do the things they needed, wanted and were expected to do.
In my third year of study, I had a placement in a young adults' mental health service and that is when I knew that mental health was the area I wanted to pursue. I am particularly interested in the role of the environment (physical social, political, cultural and spiritual) and how this influences a person's choice of occupation and capacity to meaningfully engage with others. It has been incredible to see the profession grow, particularly in the last decade. There is much more understanding of what occupational therapy offers to the community now compared to back when my mum first suggested it.
I have worked as an OT for 22 years, predominantly in clinical and community mental health settings. My career has largely been Victoria based, mainly metropolitan, although my first year as a graduate was in a rural setting. I also had what feels like the obligatory year working overseas in the UK. I have worked in a range of roles including direct care and operational leadership.
I am keen to understand the issues for OTs across the country and areas of expertise, and what is important to you so that I can support changes that support your work with community. I want to improve our professional practice for Australia's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and diverse communities and I believe is particularly important to partner with people with lived and living experience to ensure our OT services are responsive, safe and compassionate, as this will ensure we are working together to facilitate change.
Welcome to all new occupational therapy graduates!
When you’re just getting started it may seem like there is a lot of information to get your head around. Knowing where to begin can be daunting. With this in mind, we want to highlight and encourage you to familiarise yourself with the profession’s shared Code of conduct. The code is an important document. It provides guidance about expected standards for practitioner behaviour and conduct. In defining these expectations, it helps to keep the public safe by supporting good patient care and delivery of services.
Download the Code of conduct and read the Resources to help practitioners including helpful FAQs.
The Board’s latest quarterly registration data to 31 March 2023 is published on its website. At this date, there were 29,473 registered occupational therapists (including 26 on the pandemic sub-register).
For more data, including registrant numbers by age, gender and principal place of practice, visit our Statistics page to read the report.
The Board has agreed to accept additional English language tests to provide further flexibility to people applying for registration. The tests are:
Applicants for registration should visit the test provider’s website directly to find out more about these tests. Information about test providers is available on the Ahpra website.
All other requirements set out in the Board’s English language skills registration standard still apply.
Public protection is at the forefront in the latest round of reforms to the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law.
The changes started on 15 May, in all states and territories except Western Australia.
One significant change gives Ahpra and the National Boards a new power to issue a public statement to warn the public about a serious risk from an individual – either a registered health practitioner or a person who does not hold registration but is providing a health service. Issuing a public statement means we can warn the public about a serious risk at an early stage, while we continue to investigate. There is a high threshold that must be met to use the power, which we anticipate will be used sparingly and only in exceptional cases to better protect the public.
Read more in the public statements warnings FAQs.
Other changes will help us improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the National Scheme and help create a fairer system. These changes include:
Some of the changes do not apply in NSW, because of differences in how concerns are managed in that state. For example, the power to issue a public statement and the power to require information at an earlier point in the assessment process are already held by the Health Care Complaints Commission. Read more about the NSW regulators.
The changes are the latest in a wide range of reforms outlined in the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2022, which came into law last October.
For more information, read the news item and see the resources on the Ahpra National Law amendments webpage.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has published a fact sheet for health professionals on medical device patient information materials. It provides an overview of:
You can find the fact sheet on the TGA website.
Ahpra has recently established a new Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Engagement and Support team to help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander applicants, registrants and stakeholders through the registration process.
The support team is part of Ahpra’s commitments to provide culturally safe services to its applicants, registrants and stakeholders.
The support team will focus on helping recent applicants and new graduates who have identified as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander on their application form. This applies to applicants across all 16 registered professions in the National Scheme.
The team’s one-on-one services range from providing helpful tips and tricks for navigating the registration process to regular phone contact, updates and advice on disclosures made on application (for example, impairments or previous criminal history) that may require consideration by the National Board.
The support team is committed to ensuring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander practitioners in all professions get registered or renewed promptly so they can focus on their contributions to safe healthcare and to their communities. Keep an eye out for regular emails from the team or reach out for help at email@example.com.
Members of the team will be attending community events and health practitioner conferences.
If you are a student, contact your Indigenous Student Support unit at your tertiary provider for information.
Building trust is fundamental to safe healthcare, as is responding effectively when a practitioner breaches that core responsibility to a patient. In Ahpra’s Taking care podcast we look at Building trust in healthcare, how do we keep it, and how can patients be better supported if things go wrong?
Rosalind Searle is a Professor of Human Resource Management and Organisational Psychology at the Adam Smith Business School at the University of Glasgow. She is inaugural director of the European Association of Work and Organisational Psychology (EAWOP) Impact Incubator.
Pointing to examples in Australia, Professor Searle provides a guide for strengthening processes and support mechanisms to boost trust in healthcare.
Another recent podcast is Racism makes us sick, with Associate Professor Carmen Parter, an Ahpra Board member, discussing the impact of racism in healthcare. She points to her nursing days when there were almost no Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander faces seen working on the hospital ward and very little time given to the health needs of Indigenous people.
She talks about the cultural safety work being done and the challenges to make these policies a reality in our healthcare system.
Assoc. Prof. Parter has also seen intentional and unintentional racism in the system, which she is committed to helping reform.
'Racism makes us sick. Discrimination of all forms impacts the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people,’ she said.
'We've seen it. We’ve felt it. But now we actually have evidence to demonstrate that is the case, and it is now time for health policymakers and services to actually do something about discrimination or prejudiced practices in the workplace.’
In her work on Indigenous health and as a member of the Ahpra Board, Assoc. Prof. Parter is rolling out culturally safe policies across health and calling for all to walk with her while tackling racism.
Our Taking care podcast series covers a wide range of current issues in patient safety and healthcare in conversation with health experts and other people in our community. Listen and subscribe by searching for ‘Taking care’ in your podcast player (for example Apple Podcasts or Spotify), or listen on our website.
Click on the image below to read the National Scheme newsletter. The next issue will be published soon and you can subscribe on the newsletter webpage.