December 2020

Issue 4


From the Chair

Photo of Stephen Gough. Chair, Paramedicine Board of AustraliaI'd like to start by welcoming student and graduate paramedics to the Paramedicine Board of Australia newsletter. We will be keeping you updated about the profession you are entering.

While paramedics are used to working in complex and challenging environments, the events of 2020 have taken that notion to a new level. The resilience of our communities in meeting these challenges has been outstanding, and the commitment and resilience of paramedics in continuing to provide care to their communities under these circumstances has been equally outstanding. 

Reflecting on what the Board has achieved, we are proud to have continued our important regulatory work over the last year and we are grateful for the support of Ahpra and the paramedicine profession. Highlights included developing and publishing accreditation standards and professional capabilities for paramedics which you can read more about below. The Board also published and implemented guidelines on blood-borne viruses to support practitioners and students and worked continuously to support health workforce needs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As this year draws to a close, I hope that you will take good care of yourself and your colleagues in delivering quality healthcare to the community. On behalf of the Paramedicine Board of Australia, I wish you all the best for a safe, peaceful and happy holiday season and every success in your endeavours in 2021.

Professor Stephen Gough ASM
Chair, Paramedicine Board of Australia

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Board news

Paramedic accreditation standards released

The Board’s Paramedicine Accreditation Committee has released the first standards for accreditation of paramedicine education programs under the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law, as in force in each state and territory (the National Law).

The new Accreditation standards: Paramedicine (the accreditation standards) come into effect on 1 June 2021. They outline the requirements that education providers must meet to ensure they are equipping graduates with the knowledge, skills and attributes they need to safely and competently practise as paramedics in Australia.

This long lead time recognises the added pressures that education providers face due to the COVID-19 pandemic and ensures they have enough time to prepare before any accreditation assessments begin in 2021.

For more information, please read the news item

The accreditation standards are available on the Board’s Accreditation page.

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Paramedic professional capabilities released

The Paramedicine Board of Australia has released the Professional capabilities for registered paramedics (the professional capabilities). These capabilities will come into effect on 1 June 2021.

The professional capabilities identify the knowledge, skills and professional attributes needed to safely and competently practise as a paramedic in Australia. They describe the threshold level of professional capability required for both initial and continuing registration.

The professional capabilities apply to all registered paramedics and to individuals seeking to qualify for registration, including practitioners qualified and/or trained in Australia and overseas.

The Board developed the capabilities after an extensive review and consultations with practitioners, employers, professional associations, education providers and health consumer organisations.

The capabilities will work in conjunction with the recently approved Accreditation standards: Paramedicine to support the future education and training of paramedics.

The professional capabilities are published on the Board’s Professional capabilities for registered paramedics page.

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Annual report summary of paramedicine for 2019/20

The Paramedicine Board publishes a snapshot of the paramedicine profession each year. This is drawn from the annual report for the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme (the National Scheme) summarised in ‘National Scheme news’ below. 

Please take a look at our summary of statistics and regulation activities for 2019/20 in our news item. Some key statistics include:

  • The number of registered paramedics has increased by 14.5% on last year and the profession makes up 2.5% of all registered health practitioners.
  • 1.6% of paramedics identify as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander.
  • 44.4 % of paramedics identify as female and 55.6% identify as male.
    112 notifications were made about the health conduct or performance of paramedics (0.8% of the profession).

Registration

Have you renewed your registration? We are now in the late period

Under the National Law, health practitioners have a one-month late period after the registration expiry date (30 November 2020) to renew. If Ahpra receives an application before 31 December 2020, you will remain registered and able to practise. Your registration expiry date on the national Register of practitioners will only be updated when the processing of your application is complete.

An application for renewal in the late period will incur a late fee. This recognises the additional costs of managing late renewals and will be payable in addition to the annual renewal fee.

If you do not renew your registration by 31 December 2020 (end of the one-month late period), your registration will lapse on 1 January 2021 in accordance with the National Law, your name will be removed from the national register and you will not be able to practise as a paramedic in Australia.

If your registration lapses and you wish to resume practising, you may be able to submit a fast-track application for registration between 1–31 January. However, you cannot practise until your application is processed and your registration details are updated on the national register.

For more detailed information and guidance, visit the Board’s Registration renewal page and Registration renewal guide.

What’s different about registration renewal this year?

Do you perform exposure-prone procedures?

This year, the Board will be asking paramedics at renewal whether they perform exposure-prone procedures, and if so, to answer additional questions about compliance with the Communicable Diseases Network Australia (CDNA) guidelines about blood-borne viruses. Each renewal question will provide definitions, information and links to resources to help you answer accurately.

The new guidelines on blood-borne viruses came into effect in early July. For more information and to view the guidelines and other helpful resources, please see the news item.

Advertising declaration and audit

You are required to complete a new declaration that your advertising complies with National Law advertising requirements.

This is part of a risk-based approach to enforcing the National Law’s advertising requirements and compliance by registered health practitioners who advertise their services and will include auditing of health practitioners to check compliance.

Download your registration certificate and tax invoice

Paper certificates are no longer issued but you can print a registration certificate from your online services account after you’ve renewed. You can also download your tax receipt.

Workforce update: latest registration data 

The Paramedicine Board’s latest quarterly data report covers 1 July to 30 September 2020. It shows there are 20,123 registered paramedics, 233 of whom have non-practising registration.

The highest number by age group is 25-29 years. The gender balance is 44.5% female (8,951), 55.5% male (11,166). A total of six paramedics (0.1%) are listed as not stated or intersex or indeterminate.

For more information on registration, including data breakdowns by principal place of practice, visit our Statistics page.


Students and graduates

Graduating soon? What you need to know to register as a paramedic

Are you in your final year of an approved program of study and excited about starting work as a paramedic?

Before you can start practising and using the protected title, ‘paramedic’, you must be registered with the Paramedicine Board of Australia (the Board).

Online registration for graduate applications is open, and you can submit your application up to three months before you expect to complete your course.

See the Board’s news item for what you need to know before applying, including helpful tips, links to guidance documents and a video for graduating students. It outlines the standards you must meet to become registered and the professional standards expected of practitioners to stay registered.

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected many aspects of our lives, including clinical placements for students. The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra), which carries out the registration functions for the Board, is taking COVID-19 into account in this year’s campaign.

Avoid delays with your application

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. 

Contact us if you are experiencing financial hardship

If you are about to graduate and you are experiencing financial hardship due to COVID-19 (such as being unemployed and/or unable to work because of caring responsibilities or illness), and are unable to pay the required fees, please contact the Ahpra Customer Service team via a web enquiry or on 1300 419 495 to discuss your individual situation before you complete your online graduate application. You can start your application online and pause it if you need to contact us about financial hardship.

Graduate experience survey and service improvements 

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% 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’re making include:

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

We hope this will make first-time registration a smooth experience for you.


National Scheme news

Ahpra 2019/20 annual report: regulating during a pandemic

Ahpra has released the 2019/2020 annual report highlighting our regulatory work with National Boards and our response to the unprecedented challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ahpra and National Boards have worked closely with accreditation authorities, governments and our partners to ensure we play our part fully in supporting health practitioners and the wider health system response to COVID-19.

2020 marked the tenth year of national registration. Australia now has more than 800,000 registered health practitioners. This figure includes around 35,000 recently retired health practitioners in eight professions who were returned to registration as part of our pandemic sub-register to support the health system response to COVID-19.

Regulation can never stand still. COVID-19 meant that Ahpra became a virtual organisation within weeks. We also worked with National Boards to introduce many changes to allow our regulatory work to continue and provided flexibility where it was safe. This included updated guidance about issues such as telehealth services, scope of practice and CPD requirements.

Maintaining public safety remained paramount across all our regulatory work. We implemented changes to the National Law on mandatory reporting, initiated an independent review of our management of sexual boundary notifications and continued our work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander partners to eliminate racism from the health system and ensure cultural safety. 

Insights from the year include:

  • There were 801,659 registered health practitioners across 16 regulated professions, an increase of 7.7% on last year. This includes 35,000 health practitioners on the temporary pandemic sub-register.
  • Between 17 March and 30 June, the COVID 19 portal on the Ahpra website received over 158,000 unique page views. The updates page attracted over 115,000 (unique) views, the FAQs page over 82,000, and the pandemic sub-register over 60,000.
  • More than 82,500 applications for registration were finalised, including over 29,000 applications from new graduates. We halved the median time to finalise an application.
  • The largest growth in registrants was Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners +17.7%, paramedics +14.5% and midwives +10.2%.
  • Ahpra received more notifications in 2019/20 than in any other year (10,236), an increase of 9.6%. We closed more notifications than in previous years. 
  • While the number of notifications is increasing the overall percentage of health practitioners with a notification stayed around the same level (1.6–1.7%). 
  • The top three reasons for a notification were clinical care (43.5%), medication issues (9.9%) and communication (7.2%). 
  • 132 matters about professional misconduct were determined by tribunals: 100% resulted in disciplinary action.
  • Ahpra received 412 new offence complaints relating to title protection and 584 complaints about advertising. Ahpra completed 11 proceedings in the Magistrates’ and Local Courts. All prosecutions resulted in guilty findings. 

To view and download the 2019/20 annual report, visit the Ahpra website

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Lend us your ears

Have you tuned into Ahpra’s podcast, Taking care

Listen to conversations with practitioners, patients, advocates and thought leaders discussing current issues, innovations and how the healthcare system works to keep the public safe. Tune in to episodes about topics such as telehealth, practitioner wellbeing, the impact of the pandemic, and rural and remote practice. 

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.

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Appropriate use of social media during the pandemic

Ahpra and the National Boards appreciate the importance of a vigorous national debate on public policy during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, we remind all registered health practitioners that their obligation to comply with their profession’s Code of conduct, applies in all settings – including online.

The codes of conduct emphasise that practitioners must always communicate professionally and respectfully with or about other health care professionals.

We have received concerns about the conduct of some health practitioners engaged in online discussion, including in semi-private forums.

Community trust in registered health practitioners is essential. Whether an online activity can be viewed by the public or is limited to a specific group of people, health practitioners have a responsibility to maintain professional and ethical standards, as in all professional circumstances.

In using social media, you should be aware of your obligations under the National Law and your Board’s Code of conduct. For more information see: Social media: How to meet your obligations under the National Law.

Anyone with concerns about the online conduct of a health practitioner can contact 1300 419 495 or make a notification.

New guide to increase transparency in regulatory decision-making

We have published a new guide explaining how National Boards and Ahpra apply the National Law in the management of notifications about a practitioner’s performance, conduct or health. The guide aims to make it easier to understand how and why decisions are made.

The Regulatory guide and an executive summary are available on the Corporate publications page on the Ahpra website. 

Inaugural strategy to increase our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workforce

Ahpra marked NAIDOC Week 2020 by releasing our inaugural Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Employment Strategy 2020-2025 (the Employment Strategy).

The goal of the Employment Strategy is to increase Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participation within Ahpra through the development of a culturally safe work environment that reflects the diversity of the communities in which we operate and serve. It is a major component of the National Scheme’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health and Cultural Safety Strategy 2020-25, which aims to improve cultural safety, increase workforce participation, strive for greater access and close the gap in health outcomes between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and other Australians.

The Employment Strategy contains five priority areas to help achieve our goal:

  • build a sustainable talent pipeline through attraction and recruitment of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander candidates
  • implement programs and culturally safe work practices which foster the retention of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees
  • invest in developing the capabilities and careers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees, including representation in leadership and senior roles
  • develop culturally safe workplaces through education and culturally safe work practices, and
  • know the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workforce throughout Ahpra to encourage their engagement in the rollout of the Employment Strategy and achievement of its goals.

The Employment Strategy recognises the need to build the cultural capability of all Ahpra employees to enable a proactive and leadership approach. We have an opportunity to address systemic challenges now by investing in and nurturing long-term relationships. We encourage and support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders to seek employment and a career with Ahpra.

Read more in the media release

Resetting our approach to investigations

National Boards and Ahpra stand for safe, professional healthcare practice.

All health practitioners and the workplaces at which they practise have roles to play in ensuring public safety. We are improving the way we manage our regulatory investigations about practitioners to better account for our collective responsibilities.

We know that the public are best protected when we support practitioners and their employers to improve safety and professionalism in the delivery of health services. Our efforts and resources should better focus on matters where there are gaps in safe practice that create ongoing risk to the public.

Our revised approach, in place now, aims to improve the experience of notifiers and practitioners by completing most investigations faster. There is a stronger focus on speaking directly to the practitioner. This is so we can gather early information about the practitioner’s individual practice, reflection and their actions in response to notified events. This is the key to:

  • closing concerns about low risk practitioners faster, and
  • concentrating our investigations on practitioners that represent higher risk.

Practitioners can help with this by:

  • engaging the supports they need through the process, including indemnifiers and/or professional associations and colleges
  • providing Ahpra with the information it needs as early as possible, and
  • giving their employer permission to share information about them with Ahpra to help validate what the practitioner has told us.

We also want to understand what a practitioner’s workplace has done in response to the events.

The level of information we need to gather is more wide ranging when the concerns raised could constitute professional misconduct. This includes boundary violations, criminal and unethical behaviour, and significant departure from acceptable standards.

The National Board will take action in response to a concern, when the actions of an individual practitioner and/or their workplaces are not sufficient, to ensure we can prevent the same thing happening again.

More information is available on Ahpra’s Concerns about practitioners page.

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Review of confidentiality safeguards for notifiers

In June, we welcomed the independent review by the National Health Practitioner Ombudsman and Privacy Commissioner of the confidentiality safeguards in place for individuals making notifications about registered health practitioners.

The Review of confidentiality safeguards for people making notifications about health practitioners was conducted at Ahpra’s request following the conviction of a general practitioner for the attempted murder of a pharmacist who had made a notification about his prescribing practices.

It examined Ahpra’s current management of confidential and anonymous notifications and whether there were ways in which safeguards could be strengthened to ensure the safety of notifiers.

The review found that Ahpra’s practices for managing confidentiality and anonymity were reasonable and consistent with the practices of other regulators internationally. However, there were improvements that could be made.

The review makes practical recommendations for strengthening the protection of notifiers while recognising the importance of fairness for health practitioners who are the subject of a notification. We have accepted all 10 recommendations and outlined a timeline to adopt these changes. For more information and links to the documents, read the media release.  


Want more information?

  • Visit the Board’s website for fact sheets and FAQ resources that help answer common questions about paramedic registration, and professional standards, codes and guidelines.
  • For employers of paramedics, we have specific information to help you in the Fact sheet: Employer obligations under the National Law.
  • Lodge an online enquiry form.
  • For registration enquiries, call 1300 419 495 (from within Australia) or +61 3 9285 3010 (for overseas callers).
  • Address mail correspondence to: Professor Stephen Gough ASM, Chair, Paramedicine Board of Australia, GPO Box 9958, Melbourne, VIC 3001.

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Page reviewed 21/12/2020