Medical Radiation Practice Board of Australia - December 2020
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December 2020

Issue 27 - December 2020

    Chair's message

    Well, what a year it has been! I usually open my Chair’s message with a summary of the Board’s work to date. But this has been a different year, so I would like to talk about the work of medical radiation practitioners and acknowledge your great work.

    This year medical radiation practitioners have experienced a range of impacts resulting from COVID-19. For some their employment arrangements were affected. Clinical supervisors and educationalists worked closely to implement different clinical teaching and assessment methods that ensure students can progress and graduate. Radiation therapists and nuclear medicine technologists made sure that patients who needed vital examination and radiation treatments could access them.

    However, there was one professional group who were the very essence of frontline health workers. Diagnostic radiographers provided care for every patient who was either a suspected or confirmed case of COVID19, often on multiple occasions. They had to manage the threat posed by the pandemic and the challenges of continuously donning and removing multiple pieces of PPE. No doubt many of you will have had to manage the stresses associated with risks to your own safety, all the while conscious of potentially bringing the disease home to family and loved ones.

    Medical radiation practitioners may not always get the recognition that other health professions do, but on behalf of the Board, thank you for your contribution to the care and safety of patients throughout the year. As always, to all those practitioners who will be giving up time with their own families over the holiday period in order to provide care for patients, a big thank you as well.

    Wishing you a very merry Festive Season and a happy and safe 2021.      

    Mark Marcenko
    Chair, Medical Radiation Practice Board of Australia

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    Board news

    Supervisor training in 2021

    The Board has been providing training sessions for supervisors since 2014. While supervisors are not required to do specific training for the role of a clinical supervisor, the training sessions, which are facilitated by experienced medical radiation practitioners, provide real benefit for those who supervise medical radiation practice students and registered practitioners.

    Our supervisor training program developed by the University of Western Australia’s TELL Centre, ‘Teaching on the run’, consists of two types of training sessions. One covers general information about supervising in a clinical environment and the covers advanced topics. Some of the topics include:

    • clinical supervision
    • planning learning
    • assessment and providing feedback, and
    • supporting learners.

    Dates for next year’s session will be published on the Board’s website soon. Please check the website in the coming weeks for updates on session times and locations.

    If you have any questions in the meantime, please feel free to contact us via email at: [email protected].

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    Upcoming Accreditation Committee recruitment

    Are you interested in being part of the accreditation committee that oversees education standards for medical radiation practitioners?

    In early 2021 we will be calling for applications from interested persons for appointment to the Accreditation Committee (the committee).

    The role of the committee is to develop and recommend approval of accreditation standards, assesses whether programs of study and education providers are meeting the accreditation standards and decides whether or not to accredit the provider and program. The aim of the committee is to ensure that education providers give students the knowledge, skills and professional attributes to competently practise in the profession in Australia.

    We are committed 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.

    If you would like to register your interest in appointment to the Medical Radiation Practice Accreditation Committee please contact us at by email at [email protected] and include Medical Radiation Practice Accreditation Committee in the subject line.

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    More authorisations for using scheduled medicines

    In June this year the Minister for Health in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) approved an amendment regulation to authorise registered medical radiation practitioners to deal with scheduled medicines as part of their practice.

    This change means registered medical radiation practitioners in the ACT are now authorised to administer medicines to patients in accordance with protocol or procedures as part of their intended scope of practice. This change has been made to support clinical workflows at ACT medical imaging practices and in doing so, support the safe and quality provision of care to ACT patients.

    The change to the regulations in the ACT rely on the Professional capabilities for medical radiation practice (2020) which provides that registered medical radiation practitioners must be able to 'apply knowledge of safe and effective use of medicines relevant to practice and safely and effectively deliver medicine[s] to patients/clients in accordance with procedures'.

    The new authorisations are described in Schedule 1, Part 1.4A of the Medicines, Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Regulation 2008 and are now in effect.

    A similar regulation was established in Queensland in 2018: this provided new authorities for nuclear medicine technologists in relation to the use of scheduled drugs and poisons. For more information see the fact sheet or visit the Queensland Health website.

    Authorisations for use

    To use or administer medicines, particularly scheduled medicines, an individual or health profession must be authorised by the relevant legislation and associated regulations (colloquially known as drugs and poisons legislation) in each state and territory.

    It is essential that registered medical radiation practitioners understand which medicines they are authorised to prescribe before administering, obtaining, possessing, prescribing, selling, supplying or using.

    The role of the Professional capabilities

    The Professional capabilities establish a minimum threshold for both registration and practice and recognise that using medicines (including scheduled medicines) is an inherent part of practice across the three divisions of medical radiation practice: diagnostic radiography, radiation therapy, and nuclear medicine technology. The minimum requirement for any registered practitioner when using medicines, regardless of their division of registration or the type of medication being used, is that medications must be used and delivered in a safe and effective way and in a way that is consistent with the National Safety and Quality Health Service standards – Medication safety standard.

    The Board also provides guidance through the Code of conduct which, in summary, requires medical radiation practitioners to ensure that they remain current in their knowledge and understanding of medicines, that they only use medicines within their scope of knowledge, and that before they use medicines that they are appropriately trained and competent to use or administer them.

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    Updates on approved qualifications for general registration

    Recently the Board received an accreditation and monitoring report from the Medical Radiation Practice Accreditation Committee on the University of Sydney’s Master of Diagnostic Radiography (MDR) program. Based on the report the Board approved the qualification for general registration.

    Over the last few years the University of Sydney redesigned the MDR program to ensure it has learning and assessment that addresses the professional capabilities and clinical education required for general registration.

    Those who are now graduating from the program are eligible for general registration. Previously, graduates of this program were eligible for provisional registration. Those who graduated before the program redesign and before November 2020 will have to complete the Supervised Practice Program in order to meet the requirements for general registration.

    Annual report summary of medical radiation practice for 2019/20

    Each year the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra) and the National Boards publish an annual report and the Board publishes a separate snapshot of the medical radiation practice profession. Please take a look at our summary of statistics and regulation activities for 2019/20 in our news item.

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

    Under the National Law, medical radiation practitioners have a one-month late period in which to renew their registration. If you wish to keep practising you must submit a late application by 31 December.

    Registration that is not renewed lapses on 1 January. If your registration lapses your name will be removed from the national register of practitioners. If 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.

    Have you just graduated? Make sure you apply for registration

    We remind all those graduating with qualifications in medical radiation practice to apply for registration. See the Board’s news item for everything you need to know, including helpful tips, links to guidance documents and our video for graduating students.

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    Latest workforce data released

    The profession continues to grow, with an increase of 9.4% since 2018/19 (see our 2019/20 annual report summary).

    The Board’s latest quarterly report covers the period 1 July to 30 September 2020. As at that date:

    • There are 18,298 registered medical radiation practitioners in Australia, including 1,102 medical radiation practitioners on the COVID-19 pandemic response sub-register
    • 17,909 practitioners have general registration.
    • There are 191 practitioners with provisional registration, two with limited registration and 196 with non-practising registration
    • The registered workforce by gender is 68.2 % female and 31.8% male.
    • By division, there are 14,475 diagnostic radiographers, 1,222 nuclear medicine technologists and 2,583 radiation therapists.
    • Of those with dual registration, 16 are diagnostic radiographers and nuclear medicine technologists and two are diagnostic radiographers and radiation therapists.

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

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    National Scheme news

    Ahpra 2019/20 annual report: regulating during a pandemic

    Ahpra has released its 2019/20 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 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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    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 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 2020–2025, 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.

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    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 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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    Keep in touch with the Board

    • Visit our website for the mandatory registration standards, codes, guidelines and FAQs.
    • Visiting the website regularly is the best way to stay in touch with news and updates from the Board.
    • Lodge an enquiry form via the website by following the Enquiries link on every web page under Contact us.
    • For registration enquiries, call 1300 419 495 (from within Australia) or +61 3 9285 3010 (for overseas callers).
    • To update your contact details for important registration renewal emails and other Board updates, go to the Ahpra website: Update contact details.
    • Address mail correspondence to: Mark Marcenko, Chair, Medical Radiation Practice Board of Australia, GPO Box 9958, Melbourne, VIC 3001.

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      Page reviewed 27/04/2023