Occupational Therapy Board of Australia - November 2023
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November 2023

Issue 23 - November 2023

From the Chair

As we get closer to the end of the year, I look back on all that’s happened in 2023 and reflect on the rewarding work of the Occupational Therapy Board in public protection and supporting the work of occupational therapists across Australia.

Our engagement with occupational therapists is highlighted in our story about our August meeting in Darwin, where we were fortunate to meet with a range of practitioners and stakeholders. We also feature a story on Ahpra’s work to eliminate racism from the Australian healthcare system, which resulted in an international award earlier this year.

The Board is also excited to have a story on our 30,000th registered occupational therapist, who has recently moved to Australia. Her journey highlights the diverse workforce we have here.

Please stay updated with all our news and have a safe end-of-year break.

Julie Brayshaw 
Chair, Occupational Therapy Board of Australia

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Priority news

Renew on time to avoid late fees

Renewal time is upon us! Occupational therapists, you have until 30 November 2023 to renew your general or non-practising registration on time. Renewing on time also means you’ll avoid late fees.

The Occupational Therapy Board of Australia (the Board) and the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra) have announced a small increase in the annual registration fee for occupational therapists for 2023/24.

The registration fee for occupational therapists will increase below indexation by 3 per cent from 20 September. This will cover the registration period from 1 December 2023 to 30 November 2024.

Read more about fees in the news item.

Ready to renew?

Head to the Registration renewal webpage to renew. Renewal is now online-only.

If you submit your application on time, or during the following one-month late period, you can continue practising while your application is assessed.

If you don’t renew by the end of the late period, 31 December 2023, your registration will lapse, you’ll be removed from the Register of practitioners, and you won’t be able to use the protected title ‘occupational therapist’.

New support team for Indigenous applicants

A new Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Engagement and Support team (the support team) was recently established in Ahpra and is staffed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Part of the support team’s role is to help First Nations applicants in all professions through the registration and renewal process.

The support team is committed to helping you get registered promptly, so if you would like help with your application for renewal, please email the team at [email protected].

Read more in the renewal news item.

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Board news

Board meets with Top End stakeholders in August meeting

The Board held its August meeting in Darwin, Northern Territory.

Over three days, the Board met with a range of stakeholders, including representatives from the tertiary and health practitioner sectors and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioner Board of Australia representatives.

The Board chose the Darwin location to meet with NT practitioners and to familiarise ourselves with the unique opportunities and challenges occupational therapists experience working in the local health and disability sectors.

One of the main events during the visit was a breakfast we hosted for NT-based occupational therapists. The breakfast gave practitioners the opportunity to meet members of the Board and hear from the Chair, Julie Brayshaw. The event opened with a Welcome to Country from Larrakia Elder, Dr Richie Fejo.

We also met with academic staff from Charles Darwin University, NT’s Chief Allied Health Officer Renae Moore, and took part in a saltwater healing and welcome to Larrakia country ceremony, hosted by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioner Board of Australia.

OTBA darwin photo

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Registration news

Sinead shines as OTBA’s 30,000th occupational therapist in Australia

The Board is proud to announce that its 30,000th occupational therapist was registered in August and her name is Sinead O’Leary-Burrow.

Originally from New Zealand, Sinead graduated from Otago Polytechnic with a Bachelor of Occupational Therapy in 2019. Since then, she has done a postgraduate certificate in Health Science, majoring in mental health and addiction, and has worked for two and a half years in a youth mental-health day program, supporting young people in education or vocational pathways.

‘Working in older persons’ health was my initial motivation to study occupational therapy, so I could support people like my grandma. I have always been passionate about helping others achieve their goals and supporting them to continue to function within society.

‘Occupational therapy felt like a perfect fit to incorporate my personal values into my work and help people in a holistic manner.’

Sinead decided to move to Australia for further career opportunities. Surprised at being told she is the 30,000th occupational therapist registered, Sinead said, ‘This was news to me, but I feel privileged to join all the other practitioners in Australia!’

Sinead has many plans and is excited about her move to Australia. ‘I would love to continue working with youth in the mental health sector. I have found a passion working in mental health and have discovered this a rewarding, although challenging, practice area so it is something I would love to continue in.’

Hoping to work in Melbourne as an occupational therapist, Sinead said she has really enjoyed helping support people in the community in the past.

‘If you enjoy helping others collaboratively and holistically, then occupational therapy is the place for you. This profession has many benefits, including very broad practice areas which allow you to explore different career pathways. Studying OT and taking advantage of the variety of placement opportunities may lead you to your passion and a wonderful community of colleagues!’

OTBA Sinead Pic

Latest workforce data released

The Board’s quarterly registration data to 30 June 2023 is published on its website. At this date there were 29,742 registered occupational therapists, including 898 with non-practising registration.

For further details on registration by age, gender and principal place of practice, read the report on our Statistics page.

Students and graduates

Finishing your study this year? Apply for registration now!

Graduates set to complete their course this year can take the first step in their new health career by applying for registration now.

Applying before you finish study means we can start assessing your application while we wait for your graduate results.

Registration with the Occupational Therapy Board of Australia is required before you can call yourself an occupational therapist – and means you can work anywhere in Australia.

Watch our video to get your application right

Be sure to view the video on Applying for graduate registration. You’ll also find helpful advice, tips for avoiding common causes of delay, and downloadable information flyers on the Graduate applications page of the Ahpra website.

New support team for Indigenous applicants

A new Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Engagement and Support team (the support team) was recently established in Ahpra and is staffed by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Part of the support team’s role is to help First Nations applicants through the registration process, including new graduates.

It provides a one-on-one service ranging from providing helpful tips for navigating the registration process to regular phone contact, and advice on disclosures made on registration applications (for example, about impairments) that may require consideration by the Board.

The support team is committed to helping you get registered promptly so you can start making vital contributions to safe healthcare and to your communities. If, after reading the handy hints in the news item, you would still like help with your application for registration, please email the team at [email protected].

What’s new?

New checklist launched to help practitioners manage complaints

A new Checklist for practitioners has been developed to help resolve feedback or complaints made directly to practitioners or the health service where you are working.

We know that receiving negative feedback or a complaint can be confronting and stressful and alongside this resource we have published a list of general support services.

You might find this checklist helpful when a complaint is first raised with you by a patient or client, and it may also be relevant to those who have a role in establishing and maintaining complaints systems and processes at a health service.

When feedback or complaints are managed well, they can result in improvements that increase patient, client, and community confidence in you as a practitioner. It can also help prevent a concern escalating to an external complaint body or regulator.

The checklist was developed by the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care, Ahpra and the 15 National Boards as part of a joint project, with work also underway on resources to help consumers navigate the various complaints options available.

The checklist, along with other resources covering a range of topics to support your practice, is available on Ahpra’s Resources page.

Work to eliminate racism from Australian healthcare recognised internationally

The Council on Licensure, Enforcement and Regulation (CLEAR) serves and supports the international regulatory community. Its global membership promotes regulatory excellence to improve the quality and understanding of regulation to enhance public protection. At its annual educational conference in the United States, CLEAR presented an award to Ahpra’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Strategy Unit (HSU), highlighting its critical role in dismantling racist behaviours and systems in healthcare.

Established in 2021, the HSU ensures that Indigenous experts lead reforms to make regulatory processes culturally safe and free from racism, and that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples are represented in decision making. The HSU draws on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Strategy Group, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health professionals, practitioners, peak bodies and race scholars to shape its transformative work.

Led by Gomeroi woman Jayde Fuller, the HSU drives Ahpra’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health and Cultural Safety Strategy 2020–2025 and its goal of eliminating racism from the health system by 2032. Ms Fuller told the conference: ‘Culturally safe healthcare for Indigenous people has been a commitment in our organisation for six years – but we've been protecting our communities for 65,000 years and regulators can learn a lot from our survival and ways of knowing, being and doing.’

‘Healthcare should not be harmful. We are taking a strategic approach to dismantling all forms of racism – systemic, institutional and interpersonal. This includes ownership and accountability by providers, practitioners and regulators for creating safe healthcare,’ Ms Fuller said.

The CLEAR award recognises the HSU’s role in driving world-first reform to embed cultural safety and the elimination of racism in healthcare into Australian legislation. The law reforms mean that if Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people receive care that is racist and unsafe, and their complaint enters the regulatory system, cultural safety must be considered. As well, registered health practitioners are required to take steps to educate themselves on cultural safety in relation to the accessibility of their services.

The award also highlights the HSU’s work to:

  • include an agreed definition of cultural safety in the codes of conduct for more than 850,000 registered health practitioners
  • create a culturally safe notification process for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people making a complaint
  • implement cultural safety continual professional development (CPD) for all registered health practitioners.

For more information, read the news item.

Cosmetic procedures in the spotlight one year on from surgery review

Cosmetic procedures, including Botox and other anti-wrinkle injections and fillers, will be under the spotlight in an expansion of Ahpra’s year-long crackdown on Australia’s cosmetic surgery industry. Stronger public safeguards are needed because of escalating consumer demand for non-surgical cosmetic procedures and more health practitioners seeking a career in the cosmetics industry.

One year on from the cosmetic surgery review, work is complete on most reforms with higher practice standards and new advertising rules for medical practitioners now in place. Further reforms will focus on the non-surgical cosmetic procedures industry with new guidelines coming for all health practitioners providing these services.

The planned overhauls are likely to place a stronger emphasis on informed consent and pre-procedure consultation, including a patient suitability assessment. There will also be a focus on prescribing and administering prescription-only cosmetic injectables.

Proposed new advertising guidelines are likely to focus on the use of ‘before and after’ images, claims about expertise and qualifications of practitioners, and affirm the ban on the use of testimonials. There will also be clear rules on the use of influencers and social media figures.

Public consultation on the proposed guidelines will open in coming months ahead of their release in the first half of 2024.

Read more in the news item.

Win for patient safety with ‘surgeon’ now a protected title

Only specialist surgeons will be able to call themselves ‘surgeon’ under new legislation to restrict the use of the title by registered medical practitioners. The change means that a medical practitioner will only be able to use the title ‘surgeon’ if they are registered in one of the recognised specialties of surgery, obstetrics and gynaecology, or ophthalmology.

The amendment to the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law legally protects the title ‘surgeon' from being used by any doctor without the necessary qualifications and training. Before this, any registered medical practitioner could call themselves a surgeon, even if they were not registered in a surgical specialty or had not completed specialist training in surgery.

The move supports the work of Ahpra and the Medical Board of Australia to clean up the cosmetic surgery industry, with only specialist doctors now able to call themselves a cosmetic surgeon, and complements the Medical Board’s introduction of an endorsement for cosmetic surgery. Both will help patients understand who is qualified and equip them to make informed choices.

Doctors who continue to use the title illegally may face criminal and/or regulatory action.

Read more in the news item.

Check out the latest podcasts

Ahpra’s 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.

The latest episode is ‘Coming to a land down under: Australia as a destination for health practitioners’. It examines the path overseas health workers must tread before working in Australia.

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Page reviewed 4/06/2024