Today’s correspondent has
… two questions that have been posed by myself and work colleagues, that we have not been able to answer. We were wondering if you could help?
My first question is how would a former degree qualified paramedic return to service? That is if a paramedic was previously employed by a state ambulance authority and then left the service for several years, would they then need to complete another degree to able to enter the profession as a graduate and gain registration as a paramedic? It appears that several Tertiary courses exist for former registered nurses and midwives to renter those respective field after a long absence, but no such course as yet exists for Paramedicine.
My second question relates to workplace investigations and finding of misconduct. Would a former nonregistered paramedic whom completes re-training to meet AHPRA ‘s current standard of registration be obligated to report any disciplinary action taken or investigations completed by a former employer when they were practicing as a non -registered paramedic. For example, would the former paramedics employed by Ambulance Victoria whom resigned amid the investigation for fentanyl appropriation and trafficking in 2017 be able to apply for registration now?
The first question
To be eligible for registration a person must hold an approved qualification. The question says that the person seeking to return to practice is a degree qualified paramedic so I will assume that they meet this first criteria.
Second they must meet the ‘Registration Standard: Recency of Practice. That standard says that to be eligible for registration the applicant must have completed:
… a minimum of:
- 450 hours of practice in the previous three years, or
- 150 hours of practice in the previous 12 months, or
- 750 hours of practice in the previous five years with no continuous absence from practice of greater than two years…
You don’t need to meet this registration standard if you are a recent graduate applying for registration for the first time and it is within two years of finishing your qualification.
I will assume that if the applicant ‘then left the service for several years’ they are not a ‘recent graduate … within two years of finishing…’ their degree. In that case they have to meet the recency of practice standard. If they cannot they would have to undertake supervised practice in accordance with the Supervised practice framework for paramedics – Interim until they could meet the recency standard.
The Registration Standard: Continuing Professional Development applies to registered paramedics. Accordingly a person who is an applicant for registration does not have to have meet the standard of ‘30 hours of CPD each year’ prior to their return to registration. But, prior to registration and certainly prior to resuming practice they would, as a professional, be expected to consider whether their skills and knowledge are current and take steps to ensure that they are. That is where the sort of qualifications for others is relevant. One doesn’t need to ‘requalify’ but if it’s been a long time since practice, refresher continuing study may be useful. That may be a market the paramedic schools will enter if they have not done so already. If they are not offering ‘refresher’ courses for paramedics wishing to return to the profession, then the applicant will have to find that sort of training elsewhere (and that is in part what the recency of practice requirements are meant to address).
A person holding a recognised qualification for registration as a paramedic but returning to the profession after ‘several years’ would not have to ‘complete another degree to able to enter the profession as a graduate and gain registration as a paramedic’ rather he or she would have to find a way to meet and demonstrate the recency of practice requirements and they could then apply for registration.
The primary aim of professional registration is to provide public confidence in the profession by, inter alia, ensuring only fit and proper persons are registered. The Health Practitioner Regulation National Law s 55 (set out in the schedule to the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law Act 2009 (Qld) and adopted in Victoria by the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (Victoria) Act 2009 (Vic)) says:
A National Board may decide an individual is not a suitable person to hold general registration in a health profession if—
(a) in the Board’s opinion, the individual has an impairment that would detrimentally affect the individual’s capacity to practise the profession to such an extent that it would or may place the safety of the public at risk; or
(b) having regard to the individual’s criminal history to the extent that is relevant to the individual’s practice of the profession, the individual is not, in the Board’s opinion, an appropriate person to practise the profession or it is not in the public interest for the individual to practise the profession; or
(c) the individual has previously been registered under a relevant law and during the period of that registration proceedings under Part 8 , or proceedings that substantially correspond to proceedings under Part 8 , were started against the individual but not finalised; or
(d) in the Board’s opinion, the individual’s competency in speaking or otherwise communicating in English is not sufficient for the individual to practise the profession; or
(e) the individual’s registration (however described) in the health profession in a jurisdiction that is not a participating jurisdiction, whether in Australia or elsewhere, is currently suspended or cancelled on a ground for which an adjudication body could suspend or cancel a health practitioner’s registration in Australia; or
(f) the nature, extent, period and recency of any previous practice of the profession is not sufficient to meet the requirements specified in an approved registration standard relevant to general registration in the profession; or
(g) the individual fails to meet any other requirement in an approved registration standard for the profession about the suitability of individuals to be registered in the profession or to competently and safely practise the profession; or
(h) in the Board’s opinion, the individual is for any other reason—
(i) not a fit and proper person for general registration in the profession; or
(ii) unable to practise the profession competently and safely.
The scenario I’m asked to consider is a ‘former paramedic employed by Ambulance Victoria who resigned amid the investigation for fentanyl appropriation and trafficking in 2017…’ I would suggest that this prior history would be relevant to the Board’s consideration under s 55 and therefore would have to be disclosed.
If I was the board I would want to know whether the person took the drugs for private use in which case did they have ‘an impairment that would detrimentally affect the individual’s capacity to practise the profession to such an extent that it would or may place the safety of the public at risk’? If they did have that impairment, what have they done between then and now to address their drug usage such that the Board could be satisfied that the impairment no longer existed or was being managed in a way such that they did not pose a risk to public safety.
If they were convicted of a criminal offence the Board would have to consider and apply the Criminal history registration standard.
If they were stealing drugs either for personal use or to sell for profit or to supply to others it would raise questions about their conduct then, and since and whether in all the circumstances they are or are ‘not a fit and proper person for general registration in the profession’ or ‘unable to practise the profession competently and safely’.
Can they apply? Of course, an application is just that. It is asking the board to consider those matters and a prudent applicant would take steps to ensure that they put before the Board evidence of what they had done since to address whatever caused the problem in the first place. There is nothing to stop them applying, whether their application would be approved would be a matter for the Board. I think one can be absolutely sure however that if one had been subject to investigation ‘for fentanyl appropriation and trafficking’ and failed to disclose that when making an application, that failure to make the disclosure would be evidence that the applicant was not a fit and proper person to practice the profession even if the investigation was not finalised because of their resignation and even if they denied, and continue to deny, any wrongdoing.
‘Would the former paramedics employed by Ambulance Victoria whom resigned amid the investigation for fentanyl appropriation and trafficking in 2017 be able to apply for registration now?’ Yes they could apply. They would have to disclose that they had been subject to that investigation and it would be up to the Board to determine whether, given the circumstances then and the time of their application, they are a fit and proper person for registration.
That answer applies to the specific scenario and generally where there has been a ‘workplace investigations and finding of misconduct’. An applicant for registration (whether previously registered or not) would be obliged ‘to report any disciplinary action taken or investigations completed by a former employer’ relating to their previous practice.