Optometry Board of Australia - June 2021
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June 2021

Issue 18 - June 2021

From the Chair

Ian Bluntish

Welcome to the Optometry Board of Australia’s first newsletter for 2021. Optometrists everywhere are adjusting to working in the COVID-19 era and so is the Board. We continue to meet virtually via zoom and are working on both usual and pandemic related matters.

The new CPD registration standard for optometrists came into effect on 1 December 2020 along with a suite of materials to help you to fulfil its requirements. The new Guidelines for advertising a regulated health service also came into effect in December: make sure your advertising stays within these.

In October last year we held our Optometry Regulatory Reference Group (ORRG) meeting. This was the first time the group had held a virtual meeting and included representatives from optometry stakeholders across Australia and New Zealand.

The Board called for applications for appointment to the Optometry Board of Australia, and I’d like to thank all the optometrists and community members who applied for a position.

Ian Bluntish
Chair, Optometry Board of Australia

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Board news

Have you started applying the CPD changes?

Changes to the Continuing professional development (CPD) registration standard came into effect in December last year.

With auditing continuing this year, the Board expects all registered optometrists, except those with student or non-practising registration, to apply the changes. If you have general or limited registration as an optometrist, you will be asked to declare that you have complied with the new CPD registration standard when you renew your registration this November.

Here is a summary of the biggest changes to the requirements:

  • CPD activities are now measured in hours not points.
  • You must complete the required number of CPD hours over one year instead of the previous requirement to complete points over two years.
  • If you hold a scheduled medicine endorsement you must complete a minimum of 30 hours of CPD each year with at least 10 of these hours relating to the endorsement.
  • If you are not endorsed, you must complete a minimum of 20 hours of CPD each year.
  • CPD activities do not need to be accredited, but they must meet the requirements of the CPD standard.
  • CPD that meets the standard must help improve patient outcomes and experiences, draw on best available evidence, improve your competence, keep you up to date and build on your existing knowledge.
  • Non-scientific/non-clinical CPD activities are limited to a maximum of five hours each year (this is similar to the current restriction on activities relating to optical goods and equipment provided by suppliers and manufacturers).
  • The criteria allowing exemptions from CPD have changed and you can find more information on this on the Board’s Continuing professional development page.

You are still required to maintain a portfolio of your CPD activities and complete your cardiopulmonary resuscitation training once every three years.

The Board has produced a suite of resources on our website to help you understand how to meet this new standard.

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Registered practitioners and students: What you need to know about COVID-19 vaccination

The National Boards and the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra) have published a joint statement to help registered health practitioners and students understand what’s expected of them in giving, receiving and advising on and sharing information about COVID-19 vaccination.

Key points

Registered health practitioners have led the remarkable public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia, and we commend them for this sustained public health response. As the national vaccination program gets underway, registered health practitioners and students remain critical to this success by:

  • being vaccinated against COVID-19 unless medically contraindicated
  • being appropriately qualified and trained to administer COVID-19 vaccines if authorised, and
  • providing accurate information and advice about COVID-19 vaccination including in social media and advertising.

The statement should be read in conjunction with the standards, codes, guidelines, position statements and other guidance. The Code of conduct explains the public health obligations of registered health practitioners, including participating in efforts to promote the health of the community and meeting obligations on disease prevention.

Make sure your advertising is compliant with the advertising guidelines

There is no place for anti-vaccination messages in professional health practice, and any promotion of anti-vaccination claims, including on social media and in advertising, may result in regulatory action.

See the Guidelines for advertising a regulated health service for further advice.

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Consultation on the review of the shared Code of conduct: have your say

Twelve of the 15 National Boards, including the Optometry Board, have a shared Code of conduct that sets out the standards of professional conduct the National Boards expect and which they use to evaluate practitioners’ conduct. Practitioners have a professional responsibility to be familiar with and to apply this code.

The shared code is also an important document for the public as it can help them understand what behaviour they can expect from a registered health practitioner and assess whether their care met professional standards.

National Boards and Ahpra are reviewing the shared code to ensure it stays up-to-date, relevant and useful for practitioners and to make it more accessible to the public. We have published a consultation paper that includes an overview of the review, case studies, proposed changes to the code and optional questions that may help frame your feedback.

The consultation is open until 6 July 2021 and we’re keen to hear from practitioners, the community and health system stakeholders. See our Consultations page for the consultation paper and more information.

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Meet your Board members

Judith Hannan, Chair of the Board’s Registration and Notifications Committee

Judith Hannan OptombBA

Judith is a health practitioner from New South Wales. She has been on the National Board since 2018.

What attracted you to the role?

Optometry has been a very fulfilling career for me and I have enjoyed the respect that the profession has earned. I have worked on boards and in the field of strategic planning, so the Optometry Board was an ideal opportunity to combine both my passions.

Tell us a little about your previous work

I have owned five private practices over time. Some I started and others I bought from other practitioners. I now work as a locum across all different facets of optometry in private practice, corporate settings and some industrial consulting.

What are you hoping to achieve in this position?

I am hoping to maintain and build on the reputation of the profession by ensuring the community is confident that it can access safe eye-care. I want all optometrists to clearly understand the requirements of accreditation within the National Scheme, have the skills and necessary qualifications.

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Regulation at work

Optometrist fined for practising with lapsed registration

A recent court outcome is a timely reminder for all practitioners to ensure your registration is up to date.

In May, a Sydney-based optometrist was fined $7,700 after pleading guilty to practising after his registration had lapsed.

Jeremy Chan’s registration lapsed in 2003 after he failed to renew it. While unregistered, he continued to practise from his Sydney clinic. In September 2019, he became aware he was not registered and immediately ceased working. He has since returned to the register after reapplying for registration.

Read the news item.

If you have concerns or questions about your registration you can contact the Ahpra registration team on 1300 419 495.

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Registration renewal wrap-up: CPD, ROP and impairment declarations

Another successful registration renewal period has passed, marking 10 years of annual renewal under the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme (the National Scheme). Online renewal is the easiest way to renew and since 2011 the number of practitioners who renew online has risen from 82 per cent to 97 per cent. Thanks to everyone who renewed their application on time and especially to those of you who got in early. Responding to the early email reminders to renew ensures plenty of time for your application to be assessed and for you to be contacted if follow-up is needed.

CPD and ROP requirements during COVID-19

The Board understands that some practitioners had trouble meeting the continuing professional development (CPD) and recency of practice (ROP) requirements in 2020 because of the national COVID-19 emergency.

If you declared in your 2020 renewal that you didn’t meet the CPD and/or ROP requirements because of COVID-19, there is no further action you need to take.

Meeting the new CPD requirements in 2021

The Board is aware that there are many CPD activities that are COVID-safe options and many CPD programs and providers have now adapted their programs to be COVID-safe.

In 2021, the Board expects all optometrists to meet the requirements of the new CPD standard ahead of renewing your registration including the cardio pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) training requirement. If you were unable to meet the CPR training requirement in 2020, we encourage you to ensure your CPR training is current as soon as possible now that training organisations have recommenced offering CPR programs.

The CPD guidelines include a range of activities that you can do to maintain competence, develop professionally and improve the quality of care you provide within your scope of practice and within a COVID-safe environment.

Some examples of the types of CPD activities include:

  • online learning and internet research
  • written reflections on experience in day-to-day clinical practice
  • reading books, publications and journals relevant to your practice
  • quality assurance activities, such as accreditation, clinical audits or review of records, and
  • online and face-to-face professional or interprofessional interactions such as meetings, case reviews and clinical forums.

Impairment – when to declare

When renewing their registration, some practitioners are making declarations about impairments that we don’t need to know about. It’s only impairments that may detrimentally affect your ability to practise that you must declare.

Impairment means a physical or mental impairment, disability, condition or disorder (including substance abuse or dependence), that detrimentally affects or is likely to detrimentally affect your ability to safely practise the profession.

You don’t need to include such things as wearing glasses or temporary injuries like a sprained wrist or ankle. If you’re unsure about whether your impairment should be declared, do let us know when you renew.

If you do have an impairment that either detrimentally affects or you think is likely to detrimentally affect your ability to practise, you must tell us about it and about what you’re doing to manage it. You should provide documents outlining your current diagnosis and/or treatment plan and a statement from your treating health practitioner confirming your current fitness to practise.

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Latest workforce data released

The Board’s latest quarterly registration data has been released. The report covers the period 1 January to 31 March 2021. As of that date, there are 6,280 registered optometrists in Australia, of whom 6,081 have general registration.

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

Welcome to the profession, mid-year graduates!

The Board welcomes those final year students who will graduate mid-year, joining the optometry profession.

If you haven’t already, please make yourself familiar with the registration process. This is an important step in your career, as you will not be able to practise until you have your Ahpra registration.

New practitioners are also encouraged to understand the Board’s expectations of optometrists.

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National Scheme news

Regulators thank health practitioners as pandemic sub-register starts to close

From April 2020, more than 34,720 practitioners from eight health professions answered the call to be on the pandemic sub-register. Established as a temporary measure, the sub-register allowed the return to work of qualified and experienced health practitioners to provide a potential surge health workforce during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ahpra and the National Boards extend their sincere appreciation and thanks to all practitioners on the sub-register for being available to support Australia’s healthcare system and the health workforce during this very trying time.

While the need for the sub-register has reduced, it has been extended for some professions by request of the Australian Government to support the national COVID-19 vaccination effort. Medical practitioners, nurses, midwives, pharmacists and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners who are already on the sub-register will have their registration extended until 5 April 2022 and will be limited to helping with the COVID-19 vaccination rollout.

For more information, see the Ahpra FAQs.

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Cultural safety training for Ahpra staff and boards

A key objective of the National Scheme’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health and Cultural Safety Strategy 2020-2025 is to embed cultural safety in the National Scheme and the health system. A new, online and face-to-face education and training program for all Ahpra staff, board and committee members has begun state by state, starting in our Tasmanian office in Hobart.

The Moong-moong-gak cultural safety training program is designed to provide members of the National Scheme with the knowledge, skills and abilities to develop and apply culturally safe work practices as these relate to their role as part of the National Scheme.

The program gives participants an opportunity to hear and learn from the perspectives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, and to reflect on their own behaviours, and their conscious and unconscious beliefs. Upon completion of the program, participants will be better prepared to engage in culturally safe practices, communication and behaviour, in order to contribute to more effective service delivery and improved health outcomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.

The cultural safety training will contribute to Ahpra employees’, board members’ and practitioners’ ongoing critical reflection on their knowledge, skills, attitudes, practising behaviours and power differentials in providing safe, accessible and responsive healthcare free of racism.

We want all our people to embrace the training with an open mind and the ability to learn and unlearn!

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Ahpra to establish new committee looking at accreditation reform

Ahpra will establish a new, independently chaired committee to consider key accreditation issues, in response to a new policy direction from the Health Council.

The new committee will have broad stakeholder membership to give independent and expert advice on accreditation reform issues to Ahpra’s Agency Management Committee. The new committee will replace Ahpra’s Accreditation Advisory Committee set up in 2020.

The Independent Review of Accreditation Systems (ASR) Final Report, Australia’s health workforce: strengthening the education foundation, recommended that Health Ministers issue the policy direction.

Ahpra and the National Boards welcomed the policy direction, which requires Ahpra, the National Boards and accreditation authorities to consider the new committee’s advice when exercising their functions under the National Law.

Under the policy direction, Ahpra, National Boards and accreditation authorities must document the outcome of their consideration of the new committee’s advice in meeting minutes, communiqués or other relevant formats.

Ahpra and National Boards will continue to work collaboratively with accreditation authorities through the Accreditation Liaison Group and the Health Professions Accreditation Collaborative Forum.

The policy direction can be viewed on the Ahpra website.

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Podcast: The impact of the pandemic on our eyes

In a recent episode of Ahpra’s Taking care podcast series, host Tash Miles speaks with optometrists Tim Martin and Luke Arundel. They discuss the effects on our eyes from a greater reliance on technology and the increased time spent indoors for work, study and social connection during the COVID-19 pandemic. The impacts have been far reaching.

‘Across the profession we’ve seen things that have never existed before, [such as] Mask Associated Dry Eye (MADE); this has just never been an issue,’ Luke said.

Excessive screen time coupled with the limitations on face-to-face optometrist consultations has also increased the risk of more serious eye diseases developing because they aren’t diagnosed early. This includes fewer opportunities to detect or treat early stages of myopia (short sightedness).

‘Myopia is a big issue now and into the future,’ Tim said, as new data has been published showing a significant increase in myopia in children.

‘More kids are coming in – now that they can (come in) out of lockdown – with short sightedness ... we’ll wait and see,’ Tim said.

As we catch up on missed appointments, it is a reminder to check in on our eye health. In this episode, Luke and Tim share lots of tips and tricks for practitioners, patients, parents and the general public.

Listen to the full episode.

Ahpra releases a new Taking care episode fortnightly, discussing current topics and the latest issues affecting safe healthcare in Australia. You can also listen and subscribe on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and by searching ‘Taking care’ in your podcast player.

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Keep in touch with the Board

  • Visit the Board website for registration standards, codes, guidelines and FAQs.
  • 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: Ian Bluntish, Chair, Optometry Board of Australia, GPO Box 9958, Melbourne, VIC 3001.

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Page reviewed 21/10/2021