Osteopathy Board of Australia - October 2020
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October 2020

    Issue 28 - October 2020

Chair’s message

Nikole Grbin Osteopathy Board chair

I welcome osteopathy students to the Osteopathy Board of Australia newsletter. You will receive the newsletter alongside your registered colleagues from now on and will see articles that are of particular interest to you. And if you are getting ready to graduate, we encourage you to apply now to register now.

I am pleased to announce that Dr Tim McNamara (osteopath) from Victoria has been appointed by Ministerial Council to the Board as a practitioner member for  three years. Pam Dennis, practitioner member from Tasmania, has been reappointed and I have been reappointed as Chair and practitioner member from South Australia for three years.

We appreciate the way all of you have faced the challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought, whether you are in clinics, education or our stakeholder organisations. We know that it has hit some businesses very hard, made us think creatively about how we work, and created additional work for others. We continue to monitor and respond to the evolving situation across Australia.

We are offering reduced registration fees for graduates and a hardship payment plan for registration renewal this year.

Dr Nikole Grbin
Chair, Osteopathy Board of Australia

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Board news

COVID-19 messages – keeping you up to date

National Boards and the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra) have been regularly updating the COVID-19 FAQs and the profession-specific information.

In April we alerted you that there may be difficulties in completing your Senior First Aid certificate. The Board is also mindful that osteopaths in some parts of the country may have difficulty in completing the full number of hours for recency of practice and some CPD. Please see the latest messages.

It is also crucial that you look after yourselves and each other. Information about general support services is available on the Ahpra website.

Financial hardship resulting from COVID-19

National Boards and Ahpra recognise that the COVID-19 pandemic has affected people in several ways, including financial hardship.

Financial hardship in the context of the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme (the National Scheme) means that because of family tragedy, financial misfortune, unemployment, serious illness, impacts of a natural disaster, national health emergency and other serious or difficult circumstances a practitioner is unable to reasonably provide necessities such as food, accommodation, clothing, education and/or medical treatment for themselves, their family or other dependents, and by extension, the costs associated with their registration. 

The COVID-19 pandemic is considered a national health emergency for the purpose of this definition.

Recent graduates

Some recent graduates may be experiencing financial hardship because of loss of casual or part-time employment in industries disproportionately affected by the pandemic. There may also be changes in financial circumstances in the graduate’s immediate household.

If you are experiencing financial hardship and are unable to pay the required fees, please contact the Ahpra Customer Service team via 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.

Renewing registration

A payment plan will be available for health practitioners experiencing genuine financial hardship due to COVID-19. If eligible, practitioners will be able to pay half their registration fee at renewal and make a second payment in the first half of 2021.

Practitioners will need to complete and upload a financial hardship application form before completing their renewal – applications cannot be considered after a practitioner has renewed. Applications will close on 17 November 2020 to allow processing time.

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Capabilities for osteopathic practice now include cultural safety definition

The Capabilities for osteopathic practice (2019) have received an important update with the inclusion of the cultural safety definition agreed on by the National Scheme and its partners.

Defining cultural safety part of a major health strategy

In February this year an ambitious strategy from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health experts, regulators and health organisations was launched. The strategy, which was signed by 42 organisations, academics and individuals, is a commitment to embedding cultural safety into Australia’s health system.

The development of the strategy was led by the National Scheme’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Strategy Group, which includes all 15 of the national health practitioner boards. The group published a Statement of intent in July 2018 highlighting its intent to achieve equity in health outcomes between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples and other Australians to close the gap by 2031. Its vision is that patient safety for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples is the norm.

How this applies to osteopaths

All health practitioners in Australia, including osteopaths, need a working knowledge of factors that contribute to and influence the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples. These factors include history, spirituality and relationship to land and other determinants of health in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities.

Updating the Capabilities for osteopathic practice (2019) is an important step in embedding cultural safety in osteopathic work.

Board Chair Nikole Grbin says ‘Cultural safety in healthcare needs to become the norm and the cultural safety strategy gives us a clear way forward to achieve this. When we give care to our patients it’s important to understand that for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples this is inseparably linked with cultural safety.

The Capabilities for osteopathic practice set out the attributes, knowledge and skills needed for osteopathic practice in Australia, which is why it is so important that the cultural safety definition is included. I encourage all osteopaths to familiarise yourselves with the definition and consider it in your work.’

To access the updated Capabilities, please see the Capabilities for osteopathic practice page.

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Social survey results include Osteopathy Board research

Ahpra and National Boards have released results from the second annual survey of stakeholder understanding and perceptions of our role and work.

The results help us to better understand what the community, regulated health professions, and our stakeholders think and feel about us, particularly in areas of understanding, confidence and trust.

The insights gained will inform how we can improve our engagement with both the professions and the community.

The report provides the results from an anonymous survey conducted in late 2019 of a random sample of registered practitioners and an anonymous survey sent to a random sample of members of the public across communities in Australia. There were nearly 6,000 responses from practitioners and 2,000 from the broader community. Both surveys were managed by an independent consultant.

Overall, the results show positive perceptions of Ahpra and National Boards. The surveys were, in the main, the same as ones carried out in 2018 and therefore enable the comparison of changes in awareness and sentiment over the period.

The Osteopathy Board of Australia has also published a report based on the results of the online survey of registered osteopaths.

To access the survey reports, see the news item.  

To help inform our future work we will survey practitioners and the community again in 2020, the results from these surveys will be released in 2021.

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Practice tips

Dry needling risks

A recent notification to the Board has prompted this reminder that a pneumothorax may occur from the use of dry needling or acupuncture needles around the thoracic and cervicothoracic areas. While the incidence of such events is still rare, practitioners who are using such needle-based therapies should be:

  • aware of this risk and take appropriate steps to prevent its occurrence in the first instance
  • able to identify and refer patients with this adverse event for urgent medical care
  • trained, educated, and competent to perform needle-based therapies, and
  • covered by adequate insurance (as required for all aspects of a registered practitioner’s practice).

We will continue to monitor and assess the risks of needle-based therapies and may provide further advice to practitioners based on the information we receive.

The professional associations have resources on needling practices, and information on courses and insurance for practitioners.

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Students and graduates

Graduating soon? Here’s what you need to know

This year’s graduate registration campaign is underway. If you're set to complete your course within the next three months, apply now! See the Board’s news item for everything you need to know, including helpful tips, links to guidance documents and a video for graduating students.

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected many aspects of our lives including clinical placements for students. Ahpra 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

Recent graduates applying for initial registration before 31 March 2021 may self-assess as experiencing financial hardship because of the COVID-19 pandemic (being unemployed and/or unable to work because of caring responsibilities or illness).

If you are experiencing financial hardship and are unable to pay the required fees, please contact the Ahpra Customer Service team via 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 per cent 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 correctly certify photo identity documents.

We hope this will make first-time registration a smoother, less stressful experience.

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Board freezes registration fee for 2020-21

The Board has frozen the registration fee for osteopaths at $376. The fee for practitioners whose principal place of practice is New South Wales is $525. NSW is a co-regulatory jurisdiction. The fees have remained at this level since 2016.

A full fee schedule, including the fee arrangements for practitioners whose principal place of practice is NSW, is published on the Board’s website.

Latest workforce data released

There are 2,753 registered osteopaths in Australia as at 30 June 2020, an increase of 207 since the same time last year.

For more details on registration by principal place of practice, age and gender, visit our Statistics page.

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AOAC consultation: have your say

The Australian Osteopathic Accreditation Council (AOAC) is currently reviewing the Accreditation standards for osteopathic courses in Australia and welcomes consultation submissions from osteopaths. These accreditation standards are used to assess and accredit programs of study leading to registration as an osteopath in Australia.

Further information on the review is available on the AOAC website. The consultation will close on Wednesday 18 November 2020.

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National Scheme news

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. 

Now is a great time to download and listen to the latest Ahpra Taking care podcast, or pick any episode from our catalogue! You can also listen and subscribe on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and by searching ‘Taking care’ in your podcast player.

Taking care podcast image July 2020

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Ahpra to conduct audits of advertising compliance

When applying to renew their registration in 2020, health practitioners will be asked to declare that, if they advertise, their advertising meets Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (National Law) advertising requirements and will be accompanied by auditing to check compliance.

Following an advertising audit declaration pilot in 2018, National Boards agreed in November 2019 to introduce a renewal declaration and audit as an effective approach to determine overall advertising and non-compliance rates.

The audit, to be carried out by Ahpra’s Advertising Compliance team from February 2021, will not delay a decision on the application for renewal.

This is part of the approach to improve compliance with National Law advertising requirements in the Advertising compliance and enforcement strategy for the National Scheme. The strategy supports improved compliance with National Law advertising requirements through a responsive, risk-based enforcement and educative approach.

Evaluation, such as the 2018 pilot audit, is a core component and has informed the revised Advertising and compliance enforcement strategy due to be released soon.

Updated Guidelines for advertising a regulated health service to help health practitioners understand their obligations when they are advertising a regulated health service are also due to be released soon.

Audited practitioners who are found to have non-compliant advertising will be managed under the strategy.

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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.

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Keep in touch with the Board

  • Visit www.osteopathyboard.gov.au 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 the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra) on 1300 419 495 (from within Australia) or +61 3 8708 9010 (for overseas callers).
  • To update your contact details, see important emails about registration renewal and get other Board updates, log in to the Ahpra portal using your User ID and password.
  • Address mail correspondence to: Dr Nikole Grbin, Chair, Osteopathy Board of Australia, GPO Box 9958, Melbourne, VIC 3001.

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Page reviewed 26/09/2022