Psychology Board of Australia - August 2020
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August 2020


Issue 28 - August 2020

From the Chair

Rachel Phillips

Be kind, everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle – Plato.

As we personally and professionally strive to adapt to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, never has there been a more important time for empathy. Psychologists are well prepared to respond, but we must remember that like any disaster, the individual and collective psychological burden will be ongoing and significant. The Board encourages you to take care of yourself – take time to refresh, upskill, reach out to colleagues and peers to support and be supported – so that as a profession we can continue to assist the Australian community in these unprecedented times.

Rachel Phillips
Chair, Psychology Board of Australia

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Board news

Pandemic response updates

The Board and Ahpra are continuing to provide updates to practitioners on our Responding to COVID -19 page. This includes information about temporary changes to registration requirements and workforce resources (such as guidelines for using telehealth).

We have also published FAQs for interns and their supervisors, outlining the temporary measures we have taken to support interns to complete their professional training during the pandemic.

We also encourage you to regularly check and your local state or territory health department’s website for the latest information.

Code of conduct under development

The Board is developing a code of conduct that will apply to all registered psychologists. Codes of conduct are used as regulatory instruments in the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme (National Scheme) to protect the public. More information about our decision to develop a code of conduct can be found on our website.

Developing a code of conduct will be a priority for us over the next two years. We have planned a rigorous development process that will involve engagement with code experts, key stakeholders, psychologists and the public. Our aim is to develop a contemporary, evidence-based code that reflects the standards expected of psychologists by the Australian community and peers.

We hope to have a draft code of conduct ready for your feedback in early 2022 and we will continue to provide regular updates in our newsletters and on our code web page.

The Board will no longer adopt the Australian Psychological Society’s Code of ethics once we have implemented a code of conduct. Until then, complying with the Code of ethics will continue to be a requirement of your registration as a psychologist.

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Regional board vacancies: express your interest

Practitioner member vacancies are arising on the ACT/TAS/VIC Regional Board of the Psychology Board of Australia for members from the following jurisdictions:

  • Victoria – 3 practitioner members
  • Australian Capital Territory – 1 practitioner member

To be eligible for appointment as a practitioner member, you must hold current registration as a psychologist and reside in the state or territory in which you are applying for appointment.
The National Scheme has a commitment to increasing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples’ leadership and voices. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are strongly encouraged to apply, as are people from rural or regional areas in Australia.

Appointments are made by the Minister for Health in each jurisdiction. Appointments can be for up to three years, with eligibility for reappointment.

More information about the roles, eligibility requirements and the application process can be found in the online application form on Ahpra’s Statutory appointments page.

Applications close 5.00pm AEST, Thursday 27 August 2020.

We asked Queensland Regional Board Chair, Fiona Black, what is the most rewarding aspect of contributing to the National Scheme as a regional board member?

Being a practitioner member is a unique opportunity to influence the current practice and future direction of psychology in Australia. We do this by managing regulatory issues that arise in Queensland. As a member of the Queensland Board, I feel that I’m contributing to maintaining the high standards of the profession and protecting the public.

Being part of the board has given me a genuine sense of confidence in the regulation of a profession that I care deeply about. Seeing my colleagues treat each matter with compassion, fairness and respect has given me faith in the board’s processes.

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National psychology exam goes online

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have temporarily moved the national psychology exam to online proctoring.

Online proctoring (OLP) is a secure way that exams can be offered remotely via the internet in your home or workplace (where available). Within the context of COVID-19, we preferred to alter the delivery method rather than postpone or cancel the exams for 2020.

The May sitting of the exam was done by OLP, successfully supporting provisional psychologists to complete this requirement in a safe and timely manner. The May exam had the second highest number of candidates since the exam was introduced in 2013. We are encouraged to see candidates complete their requirements for general registration and enter the workforce in this time of high community need for mental health services.

Feedback from candidates who sat the OLP exams about their experience has been very positive. The pass rate for the OLP exam has been comparable to the pass rate for the exam delivered in test centres.

Given the success of the first OLP exam, the evolving COVID-19 situation in different states and territories and the limited access to in-person testing centres, the August sitting of the exam will also be online.

For the November sitting, we plan to offer dual-delivery. This means that candidates can choose to sit the exam in a test centre (where available) or by OLP. Candidates can register for an exam at any of the open testing venues across Australia, and should circumstances at the venue change, change their registration to OLP (and vice versa).

We strongly encourage exam candidates and supervisors to review our FAQs about online proctoring to help you understand the rules and requirements for OLP, and to help you determine the best exam option for you.

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National Scheme news

Podcasts on the pandemic and beyond

Ahpra has released many podcasts on areas of interest to all health professionals in the Taking care podcast series. The topics covered in the podcasts include pandemic and non-pandemic-related issues.

In a recent episode on Health practitioner wellbeing in the pandemic era and beyond, psychiatrist Dr Kym Jenkins, clinical psychologist Margie Stuchbery and Dr Jane Munro, a rheumatologist, share personal and professional insights on practitioner wellbeing. They discuss practical and evidence-based strategies to safeguard and support practitioners and teams through the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

Ahpra releases a new episode every fortnight, discussing current topics and the latest issues affecting safe healthcare in Australia.

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.

If you have questions or feedback about the podcast, email [email protected].

Taking care podcast image July 2020

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No place for racism in healthcare

In April, the Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association (AIDA) issued a media release detailing instances of medical practitioners denying Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people access to culturally safe healthcare. They were seeking testing for COVID-19. These cases in rural New South Wales and Western Australia involved refusal of care on the grounds of patient identity and racist stereotypes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders not practising self-hygiene.

Racism from registered healthcare professionals will not be tolerated, particularly given the vulnerability of Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples to the virus. They continue to experience prejudice and bias when seeking necessary healthcare. Discrimination in healthcare contributes to health inequity.

We encourage Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who have experienced culturally unsafe incidents of care or refusal of care by a registered health practitioner to submit a notification or complaint to Ahpra.

In February 2020, the National Scheme’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health and cultural safety strategy 2020-2025 was released, proving our commitment to achieving patient safety for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples as the norm and the inextricably linked elements of clinical and cultural safety. The strategy strives to achieve the national priority of a health system free of racism.

We remind all registered health practitioners that they are required to comply with their profession’s Code of conduct, which condemns discrimination and racism in health practice.

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Changes to mandatory notifications requirements are now in effect

On 1 March 2020 the amendments to the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (National Law) in relation to mandatory notifications took effect.

The amendments apply in all states and territories except Western Australia and affect the mandatory reporting obligations for treating practitioners.

The threshold for reporting a concern by a treating practitioner about impairment, intoxication and practice outside of professional standards has been raised. The threshold is now reached when there is a substantial risk of harm to the public.

The National Boards and Ahpra have jointly revised the mandatory notifications guidelines to reflect these amendments. The guidelines are relevant to all registered health practitioners, and registered students in Australia.

The guidelines aim to explain the mandatory notifications requirements in the National Law clearly so that practitioners, employers and education providers understand who must make a mandatory notification about a practitioner or student and when they must be made. They also aim to make it clearer when a notification does not need to be made.

Changes to the guidelines include the following:

  • A new, higher reporting threshold for when treating practitioners must make a notification about their practitioner-patients. This is to give a practitioner-patient the confidence to seek help if they need it without undue concern about a mandatory notification.
  • There are now two separate guidelines in place. One is for mandatory notifications about practitioners, and one for mandatory notifications about students. Provisional psychologists are covered by the practitioner guidelines, meaning there are limited circumstances in which psychologists would refer to the student guidelines (e.g. concerns about a student registered in another regulated profession)
  • Restructuring of the guidelines about practitioners according to notifier type (that is, treating practitioner, non-treating practitioner, employer) so that relevant information for each notifier group is easier to find.
  • Updated flowcharts to help potential notifiers assess whether they need to make a mandatory notification.
  • Introduction of risk charts that highlight risk and mitigating factors that may be relevant to deciding if a mandatory notification is required.

To help explain the requirements and raise awareness, Ahpra and National Boards have released a range of information materials to both ensure patient safety and support practitioner wellbeing. Read the revised guidelines for practitioners and students and the additional resources developed to help explain mandatory notifications.

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Social media guide for health practitioners

National Boards and Ahpra have published a new guide to help registered health practitioners understand and meet their obligations when using social media. The guide reminds practitioners that when interacting online, they should maintain professional standards and be aware of the implications of their actions, just as when they interact in person.

The guide does not stop practitioners from engaging online or via social media; instead, it encourages practitioners to act ethically and professionally in any setting.

To help practitioners meet their obligations, the guide also outlines some common pitfalls practitioners may encounter when using social media.

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 behave ethically and to maintain professional standards, as in all professional circumstances.

In using social media, psychologists should be aware of their obligations under the National Law, the Code of ethics, the Advertising guidelines and other relevant legislation, such as privacy legislation.

This guide replaces the Social media policy on Boards’ codes, guidelines and policies pages and is available in the Advertising resources section of Ahpra’s website. The guide will be updated as needed.

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Keep in touch with the Board

  • Visit the Psychology Board website for information on the National Scheme and for the mandatory registration standards, codes, guidelines, policies and fact sheets.
  • Lodge an enquiry form via the website by following the Contact us link on the bottom of every page.
  • For registration enquiries call 1300 419 495 (from within Australia) or +61 3 9285 3010 (for overseas callers).
  • Address mail correspondence to: Rachel Phillips, Chair, Psychology Board of Australia, GPO Box 9958 Melbourne VIC 3001.

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Page reviewed 21/11/2022