Chair, practitioner and community board members of the 14 health profession boards in the National Scheme are appointed by the Australian Health Workforce Ministerial Council.
Di Wen Lai, practitioner member, Chinese Medicine Board of Australia
What do you do in your role with the Chinese Medicine Board of Australia?
A significant part of my role is as a touchstone for the Board in matters of professional practices and patient care. I was first appointed to the inaugural Board in July 2011 and reappointed for a second term in July 2013.
As one of the first, if not the first, graduate from China of traditional Chinese medicine to ‘hang her shingle’ as a qualified practitioner in 1989, I brought 25 years of full-time clinical practice in Australia to the Board table.
I also have extensive experience in cultivating the mutual respect of other registered health care professionals.
What are some of the challenges of your role and how do you overcome them?
The Board needed to be up and running effectively fulfilling its role of protecting the public from inception. Development of the Board’s protocols and learning how to become an effective board member happened ‘on the job’. Guidance and mentoring from some experienced Board members was a great help.
There are inherent cultural barriers to be faced by the workforce of the Chinese medicine profession. This is one of the more important challenges facing the Board, therefore risk management is an intrinsic part of implementing the National Scheme.
You are now serving a second term. What would you say to a person who health ministers have just appointed to a Board for their first term?
Opportunities in life are opportunities to challenge oneself and to learn new skills.
It is an honour to be given the opportunity to grow and mature with AHPRA and fellow board members.
Being a National Board member, working with other like minded people for the common goals is a very enriching and rewarding experience. For me it also provides the opportunity to contribute with my professional expertise and to create a positive relationship with the public on behalf of my profession.
Dr John Lockwood, Chair and practitioner member, Dental Board of Australia
What do you do in your role with the Dental Board of Australia?
I was appointed as New South Wales practitioner member and Chair of the Dental Board of Australia right at the beginning (in 2009) while I was still the president of the NSW Dental Council.
It seemed logical to me to have a national scheme just to get the national register of health practitioners, which is such a triumph in itself.
I am also involved through the Chairs Forum on various committees cross referencing the work of AHPRA and the National Boards. I'm still fascinated at what there is to learn and how we should all own the outcomes.
What is top of your list of things AHPRA and the Boards should do to bring out the best of the National Scheme?
One of the significant aspects of such a complex organisation having nearly completed the massive task of implementation of the National Scheme is to completely develop and engender a culture in the partnership of the Boards and AHPRA.
That culture makes it not just a perception but a reality of trust, commitment and transparency. To be a good regulator there must be clarity of purpose and a will to change in order to protect the public, but also to have the community and the professions proudly own the scheme.
What are some of the challenges of your role and how do you overcome them?
We’ve moved from the initial excitement and multifaceted implementation of the National Scheme to a time of consolidation and maturity.
As a scheme, we've played with uniformity in the way we regulate and moved to develop better consistency in our decision-making. But understanding what success looks like is hard. So it’s important to get the balance and business right in the realms of right touch regulation. This is more than just directing process. It's about outcomes and responding in a way that is in proportion to the risk to the public.
We also need to look forward. To see the future requires some culture, a lot of commitment, and dreaming. Regulation needs resources and people able to participate in the scheme as they believe in its benefits.
My personal resources are my board colleagues and peers. Just throwing an idea into conversations with AHPRA friends makes the dreaming transform into a plan sometimes.
You are now serving a third term as Chair and practitioner member with considerable experience as a regulator. What would you say to a person who health ministers have just appointed to a Board for their first term?
Remember first that probably more than 100 board members and probably the same number of AHPRA people have looked at the issues. Maybe more than once. Yet we all can appreciate the fresh approach. Please ask those questions because not one single person necessarily has the answer.
New appointments come with a great sense of commitment and ability, so use these attributes well. Listening is only as good as the discussion unless you can offer a few more constructive words to better the outcome. An understanding of the National Law can help.
Time for thinking out loud makes my phone time go up! But it also helps me draft possible themes and sometimes hatch a plan moving forward. Home time and clinical practice is a nice balancing influence to the demands of this role.
Mark Bodycoat, community member, Medical Board of Australia; and Chair, Community Reference Group
What do you do in your role with the Medical Board of Australia?
I am appointed as a community member.
I see my role as providing another viewpoint in the Board's decision-making. I am not the representative of any particular group. My responsibility is to ensure that in any decision-making there is input from a community perspective.
That said, the Board makes its decisions in a collegiate way, and takes account of a wide range of views and inputs.
In addition to your role on the Medical Board, you were recently appointed Chair of the Community Reference Group (CRG). Can you explain more about this role and how it relates to your appointment on the Board?
The role of Chair of the CRG is an emerging and developing one for me. I have been impressed by the abilities, energy and generosity of the members.
The creation of the CRG and the opportunity to be involved offers the ability to secure the inclusion of community-focussed input to the work of the National Scheme. That is, bringing a community perspective to discussions across the whole scheme with AHPRA and National Boards, and not being limited to an individual Board or a regulated profession.
How do you overcome the challenges of your role/s? What would you say to a person who health ministers have just appointed to a Board for their first term?
The learning curve of a community member is likely to be steep, the amount of reading (and therefore time) in preparation for Board meetings is considerable, and a member's involvement in regulatory affairs is profound.
Any person coming to the work for the first time needs to be sure they have plenty of time and the energy needed to be fully involved with their role.
A community member needs to be sure they prepare for meetings. The ability to come to grips with complex professional and regulatory issues is essential. So taking an active part in decision-making and continuing to learn about the field is helpful.
AHPRA and the Boards welcome community members and recognise the importance of their contributions.
It can be daunting, but the rewards of your involvement are substantial.