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Paramedics inch closer to 2018 national registration

Paramedics Australasia director Peter Jurkovsky
Photo: Paramedics Australasia director Peter Jurkovsky
Paramedic registration could come into force for Australia’s 13,000 paramedics on September 1, 2018.

As Australian paramedics prepare to become the 15th health profession to be regulated under the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA), New Zealand’s paramedic workforce is also taking steps towards paramedic registration.

Peter Jurkovsky, a Paramedics Australasia director and chair of the National Registration Working Group, said paramedic registration will work to safeguard the public, protecting the title of ‘paramedic’.

“You won’t be able to use the title ‘paramedic’ unless you are qualified and accredited and registered to practice as a paramedic, and it will create certainly increased safety measures for the public in terms of making sure that people have got qualifications and skills to practice as a paramedic in the field,” he said.
“There are many examples of people practising and calling themselves paramedics, which you can do - anyone can go and call themselves a paramedic and offer their services today and it’s not illegal.

“Whereas, as of the first of September next year, that will certainly be illegal and people can be prosecuted for that.”

The first appointments for the inaugural Paramedicine Board of Australia closed in May. Once the National Board is appointed, it will develop registration, education and accreditation standards, as well as a code of conduct.

As part of the move towards national registration, paramedics will be required to pay an annual registration fee and an initial fee for background checks, and provide proof of their qualifications and recent work history.

Once national registration is implemented, paramedics in all states except New South Wales will be required to have completed a degree qualification in paramedicine.

Mr Jurkovsky said ‘grandparenting’ provisions, outlined in the legislation, have been designed to enable the existing paramedic workforce to gain registration under the National Scheme.

To gain registration, paramedics must have practised paramedicine for at least five of the past 10 years, while they must also be able to satisfy the Board of their competency to practise paramedicine.

“The ‘grandparenting’ provisions are a really important area of the legislation because there’s many paramedics in Australia who operate quite successfully - they are intensive care paramedics, critical care, advanced life support paramedics, who have not got a degree qualification but work as accredited and credentialled paramedics within ambulance services.”

Mr Jurkovsky, a former paramedic and senior lecturer in paramedicine who now practises as a lawyer, said the move to national registration reflects the evolution of paramedic training to a university sector with undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, and the increasing professionalism of the workforce in the past two decades.

“I think working closely with certainly nurses and doctors and different health professions, paramedics are now recognised as a high level health profession, whereas the stretcher bearer, ambulance driver role of years gone by is long gone.”

The step towards national registration will improve workforce mobility across Australian states and territory jurisdictions and countries such as the United Kingdom, where paramedic registration already exists.

It will also enhance the skills and expertise of the profession, requiring paramedics to meet annual continuing professional development requirements.

In New Zealand, the nation’s chapter of Paramedics Australasia is inviting New Zealand’s 1000 paramedics to comment in an online survey, on the workforce’s move towards registration and regulation.

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Karen Keast

Karen Keast is a freelance health journalist who writes news and feature articles for HealthTimes.

Karen regularly writes for some of Australia’s leading health news websites and magazines.  In a media career spanning 20 years, Karen has worked as a senior journalist in newspapers and television. She has covered the grind of daily news and worked as a politics reporter at countless state and federal elections.

Since venturing into freelance writing five years ago, Karen has found her niche in writing about the health sector for editors, businesses and corporations.

Karen has interviewed the heads of peak health organisations in Australia and overseas, and written hundreds of news and feature articles covering the dedicated work of health professionals who tread the corridors of hospitals and health services, universities, aged care facilities and practices, day in and day out.

Follow Karen Keast on Twitter @stylemywords