Changing practice COVID-19 Medical Training Well-being & Self Care

Interns, AHPRA & Covid19

This essay is the opinion of Richard Whitaker, a DCT, and doesn’t necessarily represent the opinion of the CHHHS.

Most junior doctors will have read Covid19 updates that are emailed by AHPRA and published on the AHPRA and MBA websites. Below is the latest post from the 3rd April.

The Medical Board of Australia (the Board) will waive the usual rotation requirements for interns in 2020. The Board will accept the following supervised clinical experience for general registration:

  1. at least 40 weeks full-time equivalent service (a reduction of seven weeks to allow for isolation/sick leave etc.)
  2. the clinical experience can take place in accredited and non-accredited positions
  3. the requirement for the usual rotations of medicine, surgery and emergency medical care are waived. The Board will accept clinical experience in any supervised rotations.

Health services that employ interns must continue to supervise them and provide them, as much as possible, with meaningful educational clinical experiences and teaching, as well as support during what will be a challenging and difficult time.

The Board recognises that much education is likely to be ‘on the job’ and that this pandemic will expose interns to unique clinical experiences.

For the purpose of granting general registration at the end of the intern year, the Board will accept a report from the Director of Medical Services, Director of Training or another person authorised to sign off intern reports which confirms that each intern has performed satisfactorily during the intern year.

However, if the time or experience missed is more substantial, and would not provide the relevant breadth of experience or enable learning outcomes to be met, then there may be a need for the intern to complete more clinical experience once the COVID-19 pandemic is less acute.

Most people would naturally read this and be concerned, because it might appear that the MBA has abandoned the 2020 cohort of Interns and left them to the mercy of their Health Services.

Fortunately this is not the case. The MBA has effectively recognised that each State and each Health Service will need to do the best they can to help Interns complete their year of training and move on to general registration. In Queensland, PMAQ, the state accreditation body, is still overseeing intern accreditation. It is still being advised by an Accreditation Committee that includes many PMEU representatives from around the state, and which is committed to ensuring that Intern training continues as best as it can under Covid conditions.

Each Health Service has to notify PMAQ how it intends to continue Intern training during the Covid period, and will have to demonstrate to PMAQ the outcomes of this training. As much as possible, training in the core areas of General Medicine, Emergency Care and General Surgery will continue. The most difficult area to guarantee will be General Surgery (and Orthopaedics) due to the cessation of much elective surgery.

Prevocational Medical Education Units will continue with their work, although some staff may be located off-site. There will still be Medical Education Officers and Directors of Clinical Training. PMEU staff will still be continuing education and training activities as much as possible. They will still be responsible for helping Interns and RMOs deal with any issues that arise.

This is not a time for junior doctors to blindly accept what they are asked to do. Share experiences, seek advice, and work through your local RMO Society. All Intern and RMO supports and safety nets are still in place. You may be asked to work harder and to work longer hours. You must still be supervised and supported. Contact you local PMEU for further information.

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