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September 2020

Issue 26 - September 2020

Chair’s message

This month I’d like to welcome pharmacy students to the Pharmacy Board of Australia (the Board) newsletter. You will now receive the newsletter along with registered pharmacists. This is the first time we have sent our newsletter to pharmacy students across the country. You are a valued part of our profession and we hope you will find the Board newsletter helpful now and for your future.

In August 2020 we farewelled Board member Rod Wellard. Rod has made significant contributions during his nine years (three terms) on the Board. You can read more about Rod in his profile published in the March 2020 newsletter. We expect to welcome a new member shortly and we look forward to providing further details in our next newsletter.

World Pharmacists Day was also this month and I would like to thank all pharmacists across Australia for their significant efforts during this challenging year.

Brett Simmonds
Chair, Pharmacy Board of Australia

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Board news

Board contributes to Pharmacists’ Support Service

The Board is pleased to announce that it will contribute funds to the Pharmacists’ Support Service (PSS). The PSS is a long-established service staffed by volunteer pharmacists who provide crisis telephone counselling and offers valuable health support services to pharmacists and students.

The service relies on the generous funding support from professional pharmacy organisations, ad hoc donations from the profession and fundraising activities. From 2020, the Board will contribute $30,000 annually to PSS over three years to develop additional resources to enhance the well-being of the pharmacy profession. The funds will go towards raising awareness with pharmacists, interns, students and employers of pharmacists about the health issues that impact on the profession. The funding will also enable the development of information, educational materials and a database of health services available to pharmacists with or at risk of impairment.

PSS will continue to provide confidential services to pharmacists and students and will continue to operate independently of the Board. PSS serves an important role in helping pharmacists and students to stay healthy and take care of themselves. It helps ensure that pharmacists and students are supported to practise safely so that they can continue to support the healthcare needs of their community.

For further information on PSS and the Board’s decision read the news item.

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World Pharmacists Day

The annual World Pharmacists Day was on 25 September and ‘Transforming global health’ was the theme for 2020. This year was also the 10th World Pharmacists Day and celebrated the role of the pharmacist in improving health across the world. During 2020, pharmacists continued to support their communities during very challenging circumstances, through emergencies such as bushfires, floods and more recently, the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read our media release on World Pharmacists Day.

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What is the role of the Board?

A recent report providing the results from the second annual survey of stakeholder understanding and perceptions of our role and work was published on the Board’s website. The survey found that there were consistent levels of trust and confidence in the Board from practitioners.

Some free text responses indicated that there may be some confusion about the role of the Board, including responses that mentioned advocating for the profession and regulation of pharmacy premises.

With this newsletter going to students for the first time, it gives us an opportunity to outline the role of the Board and what we do and don’t have responsibility for.

What the Board does

The Board along with 14 other National Boards and Ahpra administers the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme (the National Scheme) in the interest of the public. The Board protects the public by:

  • setting registration standards, codes and guidelines
  • registering competent pharmacists
  • managing notifications (complaints) about pharmacists*
  • approving programs of study leading to qualification for general registration
  • setting supervised practice and examination requirements.

*In NSW and Qld there are other entities, the Pharmacy Council of NSW and Office of the Health Ombudsman Queensland, that are involved in managing complaints.

The regulation of pharmacists, interns and students under the National Scheme is one component of a complex landscape which includes other regulators with different roles that contribute to the protection of the public. Pharmacy organisations also play important roles in the delivery of services to the public.

We have published a diagram illustrating the Board’s role and those of several other regulators and pharmacy stakeholder organisations, and how they relate to pharmacists, interns, students and pharmacy premises. We particularly encourage students to download and review the diagram. It is not intended to represent every entity and organisation but gives a useful overview and is a helpful aid for students entering the profession.

What the Board does not do

The approval and regulation of pharmacy premises are matters not covered by the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law so they are not the responsibility of the Board. Although this was a function of state and territory pharmacy boards which existed up until the implementation of the National Scheme in 2010, premises regulation is now the responsibility of pharmacy approval authorities in each state and territory.

As a regulator, the Board’s primary role is to protect the health, safety and wellbeing of the public by ensuring pharmacists are competent and fit to practise. Unlike pharmacy member organisations, it is not the Board’s role to advocate for the pharmacy profession. However, as part of its work the Board engages extensively with a broad range of groups including the community, professional associations, pharmacists, regulators and government.

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Meet the Board: Elise Apolloni

Elise Apolloni practitioner member Pharmacy Board of AustraliaElise Apolloni, practitioner member from the ACT, is currently in her first term on the Board. Elise is a community pharmacist and has been for 10 years. She is also a Credentialled Diabetes Educator, a Mental Health First Aid Trainer and a partner in four community pharmacies. Elise brings a wealth of knowledge to the Board with her experience as a preceptor to over a dozen interns, her past volunteer work as a Telephone Crisis Supporter with Lifeline Australia and postgraduate study in mental health, counselling, management, governance and dermatology.

Elise feels that community pharmacy has been an incredibly rewarding career for her. She loves the ever-evolving nature of the role of a pharmacist including how innovation is used to address healthcare gaps in communities, how the community embraces pharmacists as their local, trusted and accessible healthcare provider, and how pharmacists work collaboratively with many other health professionals to achieve outstanding health outcomes for patients.

No two days are ever the same, I still learn new things every day, and I love that we get to be up and moving on our feet every day and can talk to and help people for a living!

Advice for students

Elise considers herself lucky that she has been able to employ several pharmacy students as well as having students join her for their undergraduate placements from time to time. She finds students very inspiring to work with and they make her even more excited about the future of the profession. Elise advises students to make the most of their placements by learning from interactions with patients and pharmacists and observing how others practise.

To get the most out of the 'practical' parts of your study, a great question to ask at your placement site is ‘Can you show me all the things that are unique about your pharmacy?’. This is a great opportunity to see health services, processes or skill sets that may be bespoke to the setting you are lucky enough to be visiting.

Advice for final year students

At this time of the year, many pharmacy students in the final year of their degree will be preparing to lodge their application for provisional registration as a pharmacist. Elise reiterates the importance of making sure your application is complete and checking and rechecking (just like a prescription) that all the information provided is accurate.

If you’re starting your internship later this year, Elise recommends that you reach out to your preceptor and other pharmacists you work with and absorb as much knowledge as you can. Remember that even though the intern year can be a busy and sometimes stressful time, it does pass, and a very worthwhile career awaits.

It is such a big year, I remember my intern year very clearly to this day! It is such a unique time, to absorb and learn how to safely practise and ultimately improve the lives of your patients.

Advice for preceptors

Elise encourages pharmacists to consider becoming a preceptor if they have the time and the opportunity. She feels that being a preceptor has been one of the most rewarding parts of her job and she derives a lot of satisfaction from helping shape and educate the next generation of pharmacists. This is a unique opportunity to be a mentor for a future pharmacist during this critical year and she encourages preceptors to respect the importance of the role.

It is a chance to create the intern year of your dreams for your intern, encompassing everything you possibly can, and everything that you wished was part of your intern year experience if you felt something was missing.

Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic

Students, interns and pharmacists are facing many challenges this year due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Elise reminds us of the importance of taking time for yourself and recognising when you need a break so that you can still perform your best at whatever you are doing, including looking after colleagues, caring for the community and concentrating on your studies.

To be the best version of yourself − whether it be for your university studies, your intern year, or the role you play in being a preceptor to an intern − it is hard to pour from an empty cup, as they say! 

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Students and graduates

Students are granted student registration by the Board to enable them to complete undergraduate clinical training. You can read more about student registration on the Board’s website. At this time of the year, final year students will be preparing to lodge an application for provisional registration and approval of supervised practice before starting an internship.

Graduating soon? Here’s what you need to know about registration

Graduates of an Australian approved program of study can apply for provisional registration online on the Graduate applications page of the Ahpra website. You’ll also find advice on how to apply as well as tips for avoiding common causes of delay and how to ensure your application is complete.

If you’re about to graduate or set to graduate within the next three months and you’ve got your supervised practice arrangements (internship) signed off – we recommend you start your application for provisional registration now.

Before you make your application, check you meet all the requirements

Before applying for provisional registration, you must meet the following Board registration standards:

  • English language skills, and
  • professional indemnity insurance arrangements. 

You will also be asked to disclose any criminal history and to declare whether you have any health impairments that may affect your ability to practise.

Make sure you’re registered before you start your internship

Remember, you must hold provisional registration and have your supervised practice arrangements approved by the Board before starting and counting your hours of supervised practice and enrolling in an intern training program (ITP).

For further information on how to apply, correctly certifying documents and how you can help ensure you are registered in time to start your supervised practice hours read the news item.

Visit the Board’s Internships page for the detailed requirements, a pathway diagram, helpful videos and webinar recordings, documents and links.

Do you use social media?

As a student, now is the time to start thinking about your use of social media and understand that inappropriate use of social media can result in harm to patients and the profession. See the National Scheme news below for a reminder about the appropriate use of social media during the pandemic. The Board’s Code of conduct and Social media guidance provide further information.

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Latest workforce data released

Registration data for the period 1 April to 30 June 2020 is now available. It shows that at this date, there were 34,512 registered pharmacists in Australia. Of these, 31,694 had general registration, 1,844 had provisional registration and 958 had non-practising registration. The 1,952 pharmacists that are part of the short-term pandemic response sub-register are included in the number of pharmacists holding general registration. 

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

Advertising declaration and audit at renewal in 2020

When applying to renew their registration in 2020, health practitioners including pharmacists holding general registration will be asked to declare that, if they advertise, their advertising meets National Law advertising requirements and will be accompanied by auditing to check compliance.

Following an advertising audit declaration pilot in 2018, the National Boards in November 2019 agreed to introduce a renewal declaration and audit as an effective approach to determine overall advertising and non-compliance rates.

The audit, to be carried out by Ahpra’s Advertising Compliance team from February 2021, will not delay a decision on the application for renewal.

Audits of advertising compliance will advance a risk-based approach to enforcing the National Law’s advertising requirements and improve compliance by registered health practitioners who advertise their services. Audited practitioners who are found to have non-compliant advertising will be managed under the Advertising compliance and enforcement strategy.

Practitioners who are renewing non-practising, limited or provisional registration and those who have contacted Ahpra in response to a complaint about their advertising in the past 12 months will not be included.

The main objectives of the audit are to raise practitioner awareness of their advertising obligations and to analyse the rate of advertising compliance for those health practitioners who advertise and who have not been the subject of an advertising complaint in the past 12 months.

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Practice advice

New case study published

The Board publishes case studies to help pharmacists understand and meet their professional and legal obligations. A new case study was published this month:

Labelling errors – prednisolone liquid

It was alleged that the pharmacist incorrectly labelled a bottle of prednisolone liquid. You can read more on the Board’s case study page.

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Regulation at work

Latest court and tribunal cases

We regularly publish court and tribunal summaries for their educational value for the profession. Links to past and recent tribunal cases can be found on the Pharmacy regulation at work: tribunal decisions page on the Board’s website. Here is a recent tribunal case.

Pharmacist reprimanded and disqualified for three years

A pharmacist has been reprimanded, had his registration cancelled and is disqualified for applying for registration for three years for engaging in professional misconduct and improperly obtaining his registration. For more information read the news item. 

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National Scheme news

Appropriate use of social media during the pandemic

Ahpra and the National Boards appreciate the importance of a vigorous national debate on public policy during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, we remind all registered health practitioners that their obligation to comply with their profession’s Code of conduct, applies in all settings – including online.

The Codes of conduct emphasise that practitioners must always communicate professionally and respectfully with or about other health care professionals.

We have received concerns about the conduct of some health practitioners engaged in online discussion, including in semi-private forums.

Community trust in registered health practitioners is essential. Whether an online activity can be viewed by the public or is limited to a specific group of people, health practitioners have a responsibility to maintain professional and ethical standards, as in all professional circumstances.

In using social media, you should be aware of your obligations under the National Law and your Board’s Code of conduct. For more information see: Social media: How to meet your obligations under the National Law.

Anyone with concerns about the online conduct of a health practitioner can contact 1300 419 495 or make a notification.

New guide to increase transparency in regulatory decision-making

National Boards and Ahpra have published a new guide explaining how we apply the National Law in the management of notifications about a practitioner’s performance, conduct or health. The guide aims to make it easier to understand how and why decisions are made.

The Regulatory guide and an executive summary are available on the Corporate publications page on the Ahpra website.

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Keep in touch with the Board

  • Visit the Pharmacy Board website for the mandatory registration standards, codes, guidelines and FAQs. Visiting the website regularly is the best way to stay in touch with news and updates from the Board.
  • Lodge an online enquiry form.
  • For registration enquiries, call 1300 419 495 (from within Australia) or +61 3 9275 9009 (for overseas callers).
  • To update your contact details for important registration renewal emails and other Board updates, go to the Ahpra website: Update contact details.
  • Address mail correspondence to: Brett Simmonds, Chair, Pharmacy Board of Australia, GPO Box 9958, Melbourne, VIC 3001.

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Page reviewed 26/09/2023