The regulation of paramedicine started on 1 December 2018 and the Paramedicine Board of Australia’s work to further implement the regulation of the profession continued into the 2019/20 year. Overall, the transition of the profession to regulation has continued to be a relatively smooth process despite the large numbers of applications received. There are now almost 20,000 registered paramedics in the National Scheme and by 30 November 2019 over 17,000 had renewed their registration for the first time.
To meet the challenges faced due to this national health emergency, the Board agreed that its regulatory approaches could be modified to accommodate these exceptional circumstances, provided public safety was not compromised. We provided streamlined and pragmatic approaches on CPD, recency of practice and English language proficiency to support the workforce challenge. The Board also worked to streamline the conditions and reporting obligations on some practitioners to better enable them and their employers to meet the workforce demands within the pandemic environment.
The support of Ahpra staff to expedite applications where possible was important in responding to the pandemic and was much appreciated by the Board.
As provided for in the English language skills registration standard, we approved additional tests that met the requirements of the Board for the demonstration of English language skills. Currently, there is no paramedicine-specific occupational English test (OET), and therefore the Board agreed that an equivalent pass of the OET for any other registered health profession will meet the Board’s requirements.
The Board continued to work closely with the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia on matters relating to dual qualified nurse-paramedics and together we released an updated fact sheet for dual registered practitioners. This provides extra clarity about staying connected with the professions when maintaining recency of practice.
To support the implementation of the Communicable Diseases Network Australia guidelines that were approved by the Australian Health Ministers’ Advisory Council, the Board, together with the Dental, Medical, Nursing and Midwifery and Podiatry Boards, approved Guidelines for registered health practitioners and students in relation to blood-borne viruses. These support safe practice for paramedics, who may have to perform exposure-prone procedures on patients in an emergency setting.
We also joined in with other Boards in approving common guidelines for mandatory reporting that took into account the changes in legislation that took effect on 1 March 2020.
The Board continued its approach of engaging with and supporting the profession in joining the National Scheme. We produced a range of supportive material about some of our registration standards and met routinely with key stakeholders. The COVID-19 pandemic affected the Board’s program of engagement activities, but we hope to reinvigorate this program later in 2020.
Subsequent to some substantial work, an agreement was reached on a national entry-level competence assessment for paramedics to be conducted by a consortium of universities across Australia. The assessment was developed to give applicants for registration or renewal of registration an opportunity to support their application, when required, with a demonstration of their competence as a paramedic.
The foundation work done by Edith Cowan University, Flinders University, La Trobe University, University of the Sunshine Coast and Western Sydney University, which formed the consortium to develop and provide the competence assessment, was greatly appreciated by the Board. All consortium members provide entry-to-practice paramedicine programs at their respective university, are registered by the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency and have extensive experience in assessing an individual’s capability to practise paramedicine safely and competently.
On behalf of the Board, I thank everyone who has contributed to the regulation of paramedics during 2019/20. Board members, Ahpra, the profession, employers and government have all played a critical role in embedding the regulation of paramedicine as a health profession under the National Law.
Professor Stephen Gough ASM, Chair