Optometry Board of Australia - May 2023
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May 2023

Issue 22 - May 2023

Presiding Member’s message

Image of Stuart Aamodt

Welcome to our first newsletter for 2023. The Board has undergone some recent changes, with the Chair, Judith Hannan, stepping down in March to take up an exciting opportunity as an MP in the NSW parliament. I have been appointed as Presiding Member of the Board until the health ministers appoint a new Chair.

I’d like to thank Judy for her hard work as the practitioner member for NSW, especially for her leadership as Chair of the Board, and wish her all the best for the future.

In December 2022 we also farewelled Associate Professor Ann Webber, our Queensland practitioner member. Ann gave many years of service to the Board and her insight and experience will be missed.

In March 2023 we welcomed a new practitioner member from Queensland, Professor Sharon Bentley. You can read more about Sharon in our ‘Meet the Board’ section below and on the Board’s website.

Stuart Aamodt
Presiding Member, Optometry Board of Australia

Priority news

Your professional obligations throughout the year

Another successful registration renewal period closed in December. Thanks to everyone who renewed on time and especially to those who got in early. While renewal is an annual reminder, it’s important to know that under the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law, you have obligations throughout the year.

In addition to renewing your registration every year, the following professional obligations apply to all registered health practitioners. These include to:

There are some obligations that hopefully won’t apply to you, but it’s important to know about them in case they do. These are to:

  • make a mandatory notification (required in some limited circumstances)
  • notify Ahpra in writing within seven days if you’re charged with an offence punishable by 12 months’ jail or more, or if you have been convicted of or are the subject of a finding of guilt for an offence punishable by any term of imprisonment.

There are forms to use when making these declarations – for more information see Ahpra’s Common forms webpage.

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Board news

New-look website homepage

You may have already seen the refreshed design of our website homepage, which went live in February. The vibrant colour and images are designed to make the homepage more engaging, and dropdown menus at the top of each page should make it easier for people to find what they’re looking for. Any links you had bookmarked will continue to work because all addresses for webpages, documents and forms remain the same.

Your thoughts on this change are important and feedback is welcome. Please tell us what you think via this quick survey.

New resources aim to support optometrists to manage health records

To help you better understand and meet your health record management obligations, the Board has developed two new health record management resources.

The resources are available on Board’s website and Ahpra’s Resources page. The tools include:

  • a summary of the guidance about record management given in the shared Code of conduct, and
  • a self-reflective tool to help you assess the adequacy of your record keeping and management practices.

The one-page summary, Managing health records – Summary of obligations, aims to help you meet your health record management requirements. It summarises the information in the Code of conduct about health record management requirements and brings all the guidance on record keeping and management from the code into a single document.

The Managing health records – Self-reflective tool is designed to help you reflect on your record keeping and management processes and to identify opportunities for improvement.

The Board’s expectations about maintaining health records are outlined in the Code of conduct. In addition to these requirements, optometrists must also consider state, territory or Commonwealth legislation about health records and privacy that may apply.

The resources, along with several other resources covering a range of topics to support your practice, are available on Ahpra’s Resources page.

Meet your Board

Stuart Aamodt, WA practitioner member and Presiding Member of the Board

What inspired you to become a practitioner member?

Initially I was challenged by one of my lecturers at university about what I could do to give back to the profession. This comment stuck and that was my initial motivation to apply for the Board position. Having been involved with the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme for a few years has made me realise that having input and being a practitioner engaged in health regulation is very important and I was excited be reappointed as the WA practitioner member for a second term.

Tell us a little about yourself – where did you study? Where do you practise?

I started my Vision Science degree at the University of Western Australia (UWA) before jumping across the ditch to study optometry at Auckland University. I now practise on amazing Yawuru country in the North-West of Western Australia. I work part-time for Lions Outback Vision and UWA. My work entails outreach, community optometry, collaborative care with ophthalmology, and coordinating student placements for final year UWA optometry students in Broome.

What are you hoping to achieve in this position?

My hope is that as a Board we can achieve regulatory outcomes that ensure safe practice and public protection. This would include completing important regulatory projects in the next few years, which are the result of significant work by current and previous Board members and Ahpra staff. As the Presiding Member, I hope to maintain the collaborative and respectful nature of the Board so current members can reflect on this positive experience and inspire other practitioners and community members to apply in the future.

Introducing Professor Sharon Bentley, practitioner member from Queensland

Image of Sharon Bentley

What inspired you to become a practitioner Board member?

I have been looking for a new governance role as I find the strategic, risk and consumer engagement aspects of governance highly fulfilling. I am very proud to be an optometrist and would like to contribute to the profession more broadly. I feel strongly about professionalism, ethics and equity. Regulation is a critical function that works to ensure both the integrity of the profession and to support the public, so that all people have access to safe, quality eye care. It is a good fit for my interests and values.

Tell us a little about yourself – where did you study? Where do you practise?

I am Professor of Optometry and Deputy Dean for the Faculty of Health at Queensland University of Technology (QUT). I moved from Melbourne to Brisbane five years ago to take up the role of Head of the School of Optometry and Vision Science, QUT. I completed undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in optometry at the University of Melbourne. I also have a Master of Public Health degree from Johns Hopkins University.

As a therapeutically endorsed optometrist I have mainly worked in rural, low vision, public health and teaching-focused practices. One of my main areas of teaching is professionalism and ethics. With increasing focus on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health by the Board, I feel this opportunity is timely for me.

What are you hoping to achieve in this position?

I would like to contribute to strengthening cultural safety and improving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representation in our profession. I’d also like to help ensure the scope of optometry evolves to meet the best interests of the public, through consultation, collaboration and inclusion.

Registration news

Latest workforce data released

The Board’s quarterly registration data to 31 December 2022 has been released. At this date, there were 6,796 registered optometrists (which includes three practitioners on the pandemic response sub-register). Non-practising optometrists made up 284 of that number, plus 17 optometrists with limited registration.

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

Students and graduates

Where to start? Try the Code of conduct

Welcome to all new optometry graduates!

When you’re just getting started it may seem like there is a lot of information to get your head around. Knowing where to begin can be daunting.

With this in mind, we want to highlight and encourage you to familiarise yourself with optometry’s shared Code of conduct. The code is an important document for optometrists. It provides guidance about expected standards for practitioner behaviour and conduct. In defining these expectations, it helps to keep the public safe by supporting good patient care and delivery of services.

Download the Code of conduct and read the Resources to help practitioners including helpful FAQs.

What’s new?

Public protection is the focus of National Law reforms

Public protection is at the forefront in latest round of reforms to the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law.

Fifteen new reforms to health practitioner regulation come into effect on 15 May. Focused on strengthening public protection while maintaining fairness for practitioners, the reforms include the power for Ahpra and the National Boards to issue public statements to warn the public about a serious risk from an individual, and the ability to notify third parties of potential harm.

The reforms are the latest in a wide range of changes outlined in the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2022, which came into law last October.

Ahpra will be able to warn the public about dangerous individuals and let them know what they need to do if they have been exposed to patient safety risks such as a serious infection control issue. Ahpra will use this power sparingly, but in exceptional cases it will help to better protect the public.

The public statement power is part of a package of legal updates designed to support public safety and make the system fairer for notifiers and practitioners. Other updates relate to the assessment and investigation process, including being able to compel practitioners to provide information earlier in the complaints process.

For more information, read the news item.

New Easy English information about the shared Code of conduct is now available

New Easy English information about the shared Code of conduct is now available. This easier to understand information will help people in the community who find it hard to read and understand English know what standards of conduct they can expect from an optometrist.

The shared Code of conduct applies to optometrists and was updated last year to improve patient safety. As well as being a guiding document for health practitioners, the code is an important document for the public. The code outlines what the public can expect when they see a registered optometrist, including information about respect, culturally safe care, privacy and confidentiality, and communication.

The new Easy English information is on the Board’s website along with other resources for the public.

As well as resources for the public, there are resources to help practitioners understand and apply the code. These resources include FAQs and case studies and are available on the Board’s website.

For more information you can visit the Board’s Code of conduct page.

TGA fact sheet for health professionals on medical device patient information materials

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has published a fact sheet for health professionals on medical device patient information materials. It provides an overview of:

  • the different types of patient information materials (patient information leaflets and patient implant cards)
  • when patient information must be supplied
  • how to meet the mandatory requirements for patient information, and
  • best practice requirements for patient information.

You can find the fact sheet on the TGA website.

New support team to help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander practitioners with their registration

Ahpra has recently established a new Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Engagement and Support team to help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander applicants, registrants and stakeholders through the registration process.

The support team is part of Ahpra’s commitments to providing culturally safe services to its applicants, registrants and stakeholders.

Who is it for?

The support team will focus on helping recent applicants and new graduates who have identified as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander on their application form. This applies to applicants across all 16 registered professions in the National Scheme.

The team’s one-on-one services range from providing helpful tips and tricks for navigating the registration process to regular phone contact, updates and advice on disclosures made on application (for example, impairments or previous criminal history) that may require consideration by the National Board.

What to expect?

The support team is committed to ensuring Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander practitioners in all professions get registered or renewed promptly so they can focus on their contributions to safe healthcare and to their communities. Keep an eye out for regular emails from the team or reach out for help at [email protected].

Members of the team will be attending community events and health practitioner conferences.

If you are a student, contact your Indigenous Student Support unit at your tertiary provider for information.

How do we prevent trust violation in healthcare? And how do we tackle racism?

International guest Professor Rosalind Searle unpacks the impacts on patients when trust isn’t prioritised

Building trust is fundamental to safe healthcare, as is responding effectively when a practitioner breaches that core responsibility to a patient. In Ahpra’s first Taking care podcast for the year we look at Building trust in healthcare, how do we keep it, how can patients be better supported if things go wrong?

Rosalind Searle is a Professor of Human Resource Management and Organisational Psychology at the Adam Smith Business School at the University of Glasgow. She is inaugural director of the European Association of Work and Organisational Psychology (EAWOP) Impact Incubator.

Pointing to examples in Australia, Professor Searle provides a guide for strengthening processes and support mechanisms to boost trust in healthcare.

Indigenous leader Associate Professor Carmen Parter takes on racism in healthcare

Another recent podcast is Racism makes us sick, with Associate Professor Carmen Parter discussing the impact of racism in healthcare. She points to her nursing days when there were almost no Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander faces seen working on the hospital ward and very little time given to the health needs of Indigenous people.

She talks about the cultural safety work being done and the challenges to make these policies a reality in our healthcare system.

Assoc. Prof. Parter has also seen intentional and unintentional racism in the system, which she is committed to helping reform.

'Racism makes us sick. Discrimination of all forms impacts the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people,’ she said.

'We've seen it. We’ve felt it. But now we actually have evidence to demonstrate that is the case, and it is now time for health policymakers and services to actually do something about discrimination or prejudiced practices in the workplace.’

In her work on Indigenous health and as a member of the Ahpra Board, Assoc. Prof. Parter is rolling out culturally safe policies across health and calling for all to walk with her while tackling racism.

More podcasts available

Our Taking care podcast series covers a wide range of current issues in patient safety and healthcare in conversation with health experts and other people in our community. Listen and subscribe by searching for 'Taking care' in your podcast player (for example Apple Podcasts or Spotify) or listen on our website.

National Scheme news

Click on the image below to read the National Scheme newsletter. You can subscribe on the newsletter page.

National Scheme news banner graphic

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) o+61 3 9125 3010 (for overseas callers).
  • Address mail correspondence to: Stuart Aamodt, Presiding Member, Optometry Board of Australia, GPO Box 9958, Melbourne, VIC 3001.

Page reviewed 17/05/2023