The paramount objective of the National Boards and Ahpra is to protect the public. Regulatory principles underpin our work in regulating Australia’s registered health practitioners. We aim to be empathic and fair in our dealings with notifiers and practitioners, but both parties can find the regulatory process stressful and distressing.
Practitioners tell us they often feel shame and stigma about receiving a complaint. It challenges their professional identity, and they find the uncertainty of the outcome and its potential consequences stressful.
An Expert Advisory Group1 to explore practitioner distress while involved with the regulator was commissioned by Ahpra and the National Boards in 2021. It provided an overview of its findings in October 2022 and made recommendations in February 2023.
The Expert Advisory Group made 15 recommendations and proposed 33 actions. All have been accepted. Some actions are already being implemented. Other actions build on work well underway to humanise the experience of practitioners involved in a regulatory process. For example, a Health Management Team was established at Ahpra in July 2022 and it has already significantly reduced the time to finalise a notification when a practitioner with a health impairment is notified to us.
Recommendations will be implemented progressively over 2023–25. Some recommendations will require the contribution of partners and other parties.
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Broaden the provision of training in mental health and substance use disorders to relevant staff and decision-makers involved in considering these matters, to raise awareness of the risk of suicide and self-harm and improve understanding of practitioner distress and vulnerability.
Explore ways to improve consistency in decision making about health matters and support the development of this expertise across the National Scheme.
Investigate the value and feasibility of a navigation and support service aimed at guiding an identified subset of practitioners through our regulatory processes.
Encourage and help co-design a peer support program, run by partners, linking practitioners who are involved in a notification or monitoring and compliance with practitioners who have been through similar processes.
Co-design specific post-incident support for staff and board members and promote collegiate support in teams.
Download PDF version of Identifying and minimising distress for practitioners involved in a regulatory process (143 KB,PDF)
The research findings of the EAG have been published in an article entitled “‘Virtually daily grief’—understanding distress in health practitioners involved in a regulatory complaints process: a qualitative study in Australia” in the peer-reviewed International Journal for Quality in Health Care, Volume 35, Issue 4, 2023.
1Expert Advisory Group membership: Ms Rachel Phillips, Chair, Psychology Board of Australia, (Chair); Associate Professor Manaan Kar Ray, Princess Alexandra Hospital Psychiatrist and Divisional Director of Adult Mental Health; Ms Catherine Schofield, Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia member; Dr Anne Tonkin AO, Chair, Medical Board of Australia; Dr Anna van der Gaag, Visiting Professor in Ethics and Regulation from the University of Surrey; Ms Kym Ayscough, Executive Director of Regulatory Operations, Ahpra; Ms Susan Biggar, National Manager of Regulatory Experience and Engagement, Ahpra; Mr Martin Fletcher, CEO, Ahpra; Mr Matthew Hardy, National Director of Notifications, Ahpra; and Mr Pat Maher, State Manager South Australia, Ahpra.