The PsyBA, Regional Boards and AHPRA

The introduction of the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme (NRAS) for health professionals in 2010 included the establishment of the Psychology Board of Australia (PsyBA) and the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Authority (AHPRA).

The Psychology Board of Australia’s functions include: registering psychologists and provisional psychologists; developing standards, codes and guidelines for the psychology profession; handling notifications, complaints, investigations and disciplinary hearings; assessing overseas trained practitioners who wish to practise in Australia; and approving accreditation standards and accredited courses of study.

The Psychology Board has established four Regional Boards (State and Territory Boards) to enable a local response to health practitioners and the public in registration and notification matters. The Regional Boards also provide advice to AHPRA staff in relation to health complaints. The four Regional Boards correspond to:

  • New South Wales
  • Queensland
  • Northern Territory/South Australia/Western Australia
  • ACT/ Victoria/Tasmania

More information on the PsyBA and Regional Boards found here.

The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency supports the functions of the Psychology Board and has offices in each State and Territory. AHPRA manages the registration processes for health practitioners and students, and on behalf of the 14 professional Boards, manages investigations into the professional conduct, performance or health of registered health practitioners, except in NSW where this is undertaken by the Health Professional Councils Authority and the Health Care Complaints Commission, and in Queensland where this is now undertaken by the Office of the Health Ombudsman.

More information on AHPRA, the National Boards and the National Registration and Accreditation Scheme can be found at ‘About AHPRA’.

Registration standards

The PsyBA sets the registration standards that practitioners must meet in order to register and to practise as psychologists. Once registered, psychologists must continue to meet all of the applicable mandatory registration standards when they renew their registration with the PsyBA each year. The mandatory registration standards are:

Mandatory registration standard More information

Criminal history registration standard

PsyBA registration standard here

Continuing professional development registration standard 

PsyBA CPD registration standard here
PsyBA CPD fact sheet here

Recency of practice registration standard

PsyBA recency of practice registration standard here

Professional indemnity insurance arrangements registration standard

PsyBA PII registration standard here
PsyBA PII guidelines here

English language skills registration standard

English language skills registration standard

General registration standard

General registration standard

Professional indemnity insurance registration standard

Professional indemnity insurance registration standard

Provisional registration standard

Provisional registration standard

Area of practice endorsements registration standard

Area of practice endorsements registration standard

 

Audit of psychologists’ compliance with the registration standards

The PsyBA recently announced that random audits of psychologists have commenced to ensure they have met registration standards. The audits are being conducted by the AHPRA annually. The audits are investigating compliance with the PsyBA's mandatory registration standards for: continuing professional development; professional indemnity insurance; criminal history; and recency of practice. The audits seek evidence to verify the declarations made by psychologists in the last registration renewal that they had met the mandatory registration requirements in the previous year. Psychologists who are selected for an audit will receive a letter from AHPRA identifying which standard or standards are being audited and will be required to respond within 28 days. The following information aims to assist members to prepare for the possibility of an audit, and describes the evidentiary information that may be required to demonstrate compliance with the four registration standards that are being audited:

 

Mandatory registration Standard Audit requirement

PsyBA criminal history registration standard

PsyBA employs an independent provider to check criminal history, which will happen automatically at no cost to the psychologist. The psychologist is not required to do anything further unless they are asked to provide more information.

  • If there has been a change in your circumstances since you last registered that may impact on a criminal history check, it is important to contact AHPRA to discuss your situation.

Continuing professional development registration standard 

The psychologist must provide evidence of the CPD activities they have undertaken to meet the requirements of the PsyBA standard. 

  • The PsyBA fact sheet states:

If you already maintain a CPD portfolio or online CPD logging for a professional association or overseas registration authority that meets the PsyBA standards you can use the same portfolio or print outs of online records to meet the PsyBA requirements

  • The PsyBA suggests including documentation such as: certificates of attendance/completion, receipts, reading list, evidence of compliance with the CPD requirements of your professional association, degree certificates or academic transcripts for postgraduate study, university assignments/theses/research reports/published articles, and plans and progress reports for professional supervision and mentoring as supporting evidence.

Recency of practice registration standard

The psychologist must provide evidence of recency of practice activities they have undertaken which meet the requirements of the PsyBA standard. 

  • To determine whether the type of practice meets the standard, the PsyBA definition of psychology practice is the best guide:

    Practice means any role, whether remunerated or not, in which the individual uses their skills and knowledge as a psychologist in their profession. For the purposes of this registration standard, practice is not restricted to the provision of direct clinical care. It also includes using professional knowledge in a direct nonclinical relationship with clients, working in management, administration, education, research, advisory, regulatory or policy development roles, and any other roles that  impact on safe, effective delivery of services in the profession

Professional indemnity insurance arrangements registration standard

The psychologist must provide evidence of professional indemnity insurance arrangements which meet the requirements of the PsyBA’s professional indemnity insurance registration standard. 

  • Ensure that your PII cover is appropriate for your practice. All psychologists are required to meet the minimum requirements for PII specified by the PsyBA. The PsyBA places the onus on psychologists to ensure that their PII level is appropriate for the size of the practice and the type of services provided.
  • If your practice has changed since your registration renewal, assess whether to review the amount of PII cover you have. If you are unsure, discuss this with your insurer.
  • Have a copy of your PII certificate of currency. If you are an employee or a contractor and are covered by your organisation’s PII, find out how to gain a copy of the PII certificate of currency for the organisation

 

For more information on audits please see ‘How to prepare for a PsyBA audit

Notifications

Three public safety requirements for registered health professionals (including psychologists) were introduced under the NRAS in 2010. These requirements are designed to protect the public from being placed at harm and involve: criminal record checks on initial registration, during registration and on renewal of registration; a system for notifications about the conduct, health and performance of practitioners; and mandatory notification by practitioners about other health practitioner’s conduct.

The PsyBA investigates and acts on concerns raised about individual psychologists through the ‘notification’ system. This can involve restricting the registration of psychologists whose conduct or performance is found to be unprofessional or unsatisfactory, or managing psychologists when their health issues are deemed to be placing the public at risk. This process is managed through the Regional Boards of the PsyBA in the respective States and Territories in collaboration with the AHPRA, except in NSW where notifications are dealt with by a separate health professional council and the Health Care Complaints Commission, and in Queensland where this is now undertaken by the Office of the Health Ombudsman. Voluntary and mandatory notifications about registered health professionals are received by AHPRA on behalf of the PsyBA.

Voluntary notifications

Under the National Law, a complaint about a registered health practitioner is called a ‘notification’ (except in Queensland where the word used is ‘complaint’). They are called notifications in the law because the PsyBA is ‘notified’ about concerns or complaints. Voluntary notifications about psychologists can be made by anyone and these are typically received from clients and their families, other health practitioners, employers and health complaints entities. Voluntary notifications can be made about the conduct, health and performance of Australia’s registered psychologists. Grounds for voluntary notifications include concerns about: a psychologist's professional conduct; a psychologist’s knowledge, skill or judgement; a psychologist's suitability to hold registration; an impairment that a psychologist may have affecting his or her ability to practise; a psychologist's contravention of the National Law governing the NRAS; a psychologist's contravention of a condition of registration; or a psychologist's registration being obtained improperly. The following APS ‘Q & A: Understanding the notification processes and requirements under National registration’ provides more information to assist members to understand the various processes and issues associated with notifications under national registration.

Anyone in the general public can make a complaint about a registered health practitioner’s health, performance or conduct.  For more information about the PsyBA’s notification process please see the PsyBA’s ‘What is a Notification’ information.

Mandatory notifications

Under the NRAS, there is a mandatory obligation on any registered health practitioner, employer or education provider who forms a reasonable belief that another practitioner has engaged in notifiable conduct, to make a report to AHPRA. ‘Notifiable conduct’ is defined as: practising whilst intoxicated by alcohol or drugs; engaging in sexual misconduct; placing the public at risk of substantial harm because of an impairment; or practising outside accepted professional standards. The National Law requires practitioners, employers and education providers to report the ‘notifiable conduct’ of a registered or provisionally registered psychologist, to AHPRA in order to prevent the public being placed at risk of harm.

In order to make a mandatory notification, the practitioner or employer must have first formed a strong belief that the behaviour constitutes notifiable conduct or impairment or, in the case of an education provider, a notifiable impairment. The PsyBA provides decision guides in order to assist health practitioners in making a decision as to whether or not they must make a notification. For more information or to view the PsyBA’s guidelines for mandatory notification please see PsyBA guidelines for mandatory notification. Frequently asked questions about mandatory notifications can be found in the following APS publications InPsych April 2013 and InPsych April 2014.

National psychology examination

The PsyBA previously announced that a national psychology examination will be implemented from 1 July 2013 for applicants seeking general registration. The Consultation Paper on Guidelines for the National Psychology Examination, published by the Psychology Board, provided an overview of the format, curriculum and other aspects of the examination process for comment. The APS made a submission to the Consultation Paper, highlighting its concerns and providing recommendations. View the APS response to the Consultation Paper.

Why the exam was introduced

The Psychology Board's Consultation Paper states that the fifth and sixth years of education in psychology can now be obtained via multiple pathways, some of which are not accredited, and that the examination will provide “a mechanism for measurement of a minimum level of applied professional knowledge of psychology, regardless of the various training backgrounds” (p.13).

Who the exam will apply to

The Consultation Paper indicates that the examination will be used for four purposes: (1) Final assessment for applicants seeking to move from provisional to general registration; (2) Assessment of overseas-trained psychologists; (3) Assessment of knowledge “where questions of performance have been notified”; and (4) Return-to-work assessments after lengthy periods without practice. The Psychology Board has indicated that it is considering applying an exemption from sitting the examination to applicants for general registration who have completed an accredited Australian Masters or Doctoral degree within the past five years.

Content and form of the exam

The examination is designed to test only the knowledge component of each of eight areas of capability “at entry level”. This will be measured by “four examination domains”, each with a series of sub-domains (for a list of sub-domains, see the Consultation Paper. The eight capability areas are the same as the core capabilities and attributes outlined in the Psychology Board’s two-year internship program.

The examination is proposed to be a test of knowledge in a multiple choice question format, consisting of some 150 items and with an estimated completion time of three hours.

Sample items provided in the Consultation Paper indicate that the intention is to design questions to assess the application of knowledge to hypothetical problems encountered in the practice of psychology.

The key APS recommendations in relation to the psychology exam, which were set out in the APS submission, can be found here.

Mandatory supervisor training

In 2013, the PsyBA introduced new supervisor training requirements that apply to all psychologists who provide supervision for provisional registrants undertaking the 4+2 and 5+1 internships, the registrar program, and higher degree placements. All of these supervisors must be PsyBA-approved supervisors.

Supervisors who did not gain PsyBA-approved status under the transition arrangements must undertake full PsyBA-approved supervisor training in order to become an approved supervisor. The APS Institute is a PsyBA-approved training provider delivering all components of the full supervisor training.

PsyBA-approved supervisor training entails at least 20 hours of training presented in three distinct, stipulated component parts: (1) knowledge assessment; (2) face-to-face skills training; and (3) competency-based assessment and evaluation. The three parts may be undertaken with different PsyBA-approved training providers but must be completed sequentially. Psychologists wishing to undertake the training must meet other eligibility criteria for PsyBA approval, and training providers are required to supply participant outcome data to the PsyBA after the completion of each training component.

Existing PsyBA-approved supervisors must undertake further approved training every five years by completing a 6-hour supervision refresher/master class to update their knowledge and skills. The APS Institute is a PsyBA-approved provider of refresher/master class training.

For more information on the PsyBA supervisor training requirements, go to the PsyBA website.