There are more than 850,000 registered health practitioners in Australia.
Responding to the increasing pressure on Australia’s health workforce was a priority, and we focused on playing our part fully. We set up, maintained and adapted the pandemic sub-registers. National Boards adjusted some requirements to enable applicants to register or renew in the face of COVID-19 restrictions.
When borders re-opened, it was a priority to register overseas-qualified practitioners to assist governments, employers, healthcare workers and the public.
We successfully conducted our third graduate customer experience survey, with 29,184 registrants invited to participate in the voluntary survey and a response rate of 13.2%. Improved experience was evident across many areas, with 83.1% of all survey respondents satisfied overall with how their application was handled by Ahpra.
Most respondents commented favourably on the timeliness of their assessment, felt they were generally well informed about their application status, had positive interactions with our Customer Service team and found the online form, process and website easy to understand
You can check our Register of practitioners to see if someone is registered and if there are any special requirements on their registration.
We made the register easier to use. Changes include:
We check every applicant's criminal history before they are registered.
The number of new registration applications received from overseas-qualified applicants is trending upwards and has shown a bounce back to pre-pandemic figures.
For registration to be granted, international applicants must present in person to prove their identity. In January 2022, international borders opened and applicants could resume travel to Australia. As part of our public safety measures during the COVID-19 pandemic, applicants were able to present in person at their intended place of employment (or education provider for postgraduate study) to prove their identity, rather than at an Ahpra office.
Applicants without an intended employer, or those who were unable to present at their intended place of employment due to border travel restrictions, could not complete this requirement. In response, we implemented a new process, which allowed applicants to virtually present in person via an online platform with an Ahpra staff member or with their employer. The virtual present-in-person process can only take place once the applicant is in Australia.
During April and May, Ahpra delivered 10 virtual education sessions to employers and stakeholders in every state and a combined session for the territories. These sessions aimed to increase the knowledge and understanding of complex IMG registration processes and saw an improvement in application documentation, timeliness and the customer experience.
We continue to work with jurisdictions and provide advice on complex registration processes for overseas-qualified practitioners, including IMG pathways to registration and the IQNM qualification assessment process. This supports employers who are targeting recruitment of overseas-qualified practitioners to increase the health workforce and ease pressure on stretched health services.
IQNMs who wish to apply for registration in Australia are required to complete an online assessment of their qualification/s. Those who hold qualification/s that are substantially equivalent or based on similar competencies to an Australian graduate (and who meet the mandatory registration standards) progress to an application for registration.
IQNMs who hold relevant but not equivalent qualification/s must successfully complete an outcomes-based assessment before being eligible to apply. These IQNMs complete two exams:
The MCQ examinations are:
This year, 533 internationally qualified registered nurses participated in the registered nurse OSCE. The enrolled nurse OSCE and a midwife OSCE were held throughout the year.
Conducting all these exams has, to varying extents, been affected by restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic and border restrictions. The backlog of IQNs whose assessment was delayed by border closures has since been cleared and we continue to monitor the situation and respond accordingly.
Ahpra coordinated the following exams:
Following the pilot of a multiple-choice exam in 2021, 11 candidates sat the scenario-based multiple-choice exam. It was offered by dual delivery, meaning candidates could choose to sit the exam in a test centre (where available) or by online supervision. Candidates must successfully pass the multiple-choice exam to be eligible to take the objective structured clinical examination (OSCE). The OSCE was not held in 2021/22.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples are under-represented in our health workforce – this is something we are working with others to change.
Based on the annual workforce survey results:
Ahpra and the National Boards ask about Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander cultural identity in various application and renewal processes. This enables a more comprehensive understanding of workforce trends and the proportion of the registrant base that identifies as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander across all health professions.
In the graduate customer experience survey we asked how we can improve the process for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander applicants.
Survey participants who identified as Aboriginal and/ or Torres Strait Islander graduates (1.8%) suggested:
Increasing participation in the registered health workforce is a goal of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health and Cultural Safety Strategy. As one of the steps to help achieve this goal, we created seven identified positions in Registration, Research and Evaluation, Statutory Appointments and our Health Strategy Unit.
The COVID-19 pandemic put Australia's health workforce under immense pressure. Following the request of Australia's Health Ministers for more experienced and qualified health practitioners to quickly return to practice, Ahpra and the National Boards established the 2020 pandemic sub-register.
In April 2021, this sub-register was extended to enable medical practitioners, nurses, midwives, pharmacists and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Practitioners to help with the COVID-19 vaccination program.
In September 2021, the registration of practitioners was changed so they could work in any area supporting the COVID-19 response, not just vaccinations. We took this action in response to a request from states and territories for additional surge health workforce capacity to address the demand for practitioners due to the pandemic.
Also in September, Ahpra and the National Boards established a new sub-register (the 2021 sub-register), enabling practitioners from 12 regulated health professions to return to practice for up to 12 months, able to work to the full scope of their registration (subject to any notations).
The 2020 and 2021 sub-registers ran in parallel for a short time, until the 2020 sub-register closed on 5 April 2022. Practitioners on this sub-register either returned to their prior registration status (non-practising registration or unregistered), opted in to extend their temporary registration and be on the 2021 sub-register or applied to transition to the main Register of practitioners.
Each year when they renew, health practitioners are required to make declarations and disclosures.
We made several changes to the renewals process:
Students are the health practitioners of the future.
Education providers supply student information so students can be registered.
All National Boards except the Psychology Board register students. Psychology students receive provisional registration.
The student register isn’t public.
A total of 142 government departments, public and private hospitals, healthcare businesses, pharmaceutical companies, medical insurers, and nursing and aged care agencies subscribed to the Practitioner Information Exchange (PIE), a secure web-based system that enables bulk checking of registration status.
We audit practitioners to check that they comply with registration standards – the overwhelming majority do comply.
Ahpra conducts regular audits of health practitioners on behalf of the National Boards. Our auditing provides additional assurance to the public, Boards and practitioners that registration requirements are understood and that practitioners are meeting required Board standards.
Since we began conducting audits, in 2012, most audited practitioners have been found to comply with registration standards.
Routine audits resumed this year after being affected by COVID-19 in 2020/21. We completed 8,155 audits.
Some of the 1.48% with no audit action were because:
Registered practitioners are required to comply with a range of national standards. Each time a practitioner applies to renew their registration they must make a declaration that they have met the registration standards for their profession. During an audit, a practitioner is required to provide evidence to support the declarations made in the previous year's renewal of registration.
The standards that may be audited are:
All Boards have adopted an educational approach to conducting audits, seeking to balance the protection of the public with the use of appropriate regulatory force to manage those practitioners found to be less than fully compliant. Practitioners who are found to have not quite met the registration standard but who are able to provide evidence of achieving full compliance during the audit period are managed through education to achieve full compliance.
These practitioners are recorded as being 'compliant (education)' – these cases represented 0.02% of completed audits.
When an audit finds that a practitioner has not met the requirements of the registration standards, all Boards follow an approach that aims to work with the practitioner to ensure compliance before the next renewal period. This may include formally cautioning the practitioner about the importance of complying with registration standards.
All matters that involve issuing a caution or placing conditions on a registration are subject to a 'show cause' process. This process alerts the practitioner to the intended action and gives them an opportunity to respond before a decision is made.
Of the practitioners found to be non-compliant in 2021/22, 12 matters were referred to investigation, two resulted in some form of regulatory action being taken (such as cautions and imposition of conditions), and five resulted in no further action. In the ‘no further action’ matters, additional information was received from the practitioner that identified there was no risk to the public.