Radiographers in Australia
REGULATORY BODIES AND PROFESSIONAL ASSOCIATIONS IN MEDICAL RADIATIONS
Different regulatory bodies and professional associations have obtained the mandate to ensure better quality services are given to clients seeking medical attention. Australia has a robust and active health care system. It is partly sustained by the many regulatory and professional organizations with the mandate for ensuring doctors and other health care providers are qualified to offer health services to their clients. Regulatory bodies and professional associations vary in their area of work, aims, and objectives they work for. The variation may be between regulatory bodies from one country and similar ones in another country. However, there are also areas where convergence can be seen in their roles and mandates in the health sector. The purpose of the current paper is to provide a review on the commonalities, differences, and professional associations in Australia and other countries. Specifically, the paper attempts to provide the evidence of the different roles of regulatory bodies and associations. It will then initiate the discussion on the need for, or lack of regulatory and professional bodies in Australia.
Medical Radiations Regulatory and Professional Associations of Australia
Australia’s medical radiations are regulated by four categories. The first is professionals who must be licensed within Australia. The second category is those of partially-regulated who are further divided into state or territory requirements. Some activities are controlled under state rules or under Commonwealth law. Where there are no regulations governing the conduct of the professional associations, the associations are expected to be self-regulatory and do not require licensing to operate. Unregulated professional bodies are not required to register or get licensing. The Australian health sector of medical radiations is one of the most well coordinated and professionally presented sectors in the country. The sector is regulated by several Acts of Parliament, which establish the regulatory bodies dealing with the regulation of medical radiation. Professional bodies are formed according to qualifications and areas of professionalism, which enhances the delivery of services to the clients.
The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) is the overall regulator for health practitioners in the country that provides regulations on the minimum qualifications required for health practitioners including those radiotherapists have to obtain before they are allowed to practice in their profession. The Australian Institute of Radiography (AIR) is represented by a group of professionals in the medical radiation science profession, commonly known as radiation therapists, sonographers, and radiographers. However, it does not encompass the MTRs who work in the nuclear science field. The Code of Ethics for members registered by AIR states partly as thus, “The Australian Institute of Radiography (AIR) recognises its obligation and duty to identify and promote exemplary professional standards of practice, conduct and performance. Each member of the profession has a personal and professional responsibility to adhere to these standards.”
Membership is required from some employers before he/she is employed. AIR is responsible for providing a performance benchmark when it comes to accrediting practitioners and graduates of medical radiation science offered in many universities in Australia. AIR is also responsible for presenting periodic reviews as a means of ensuring standards are adhered to by practitioners. It also provides Code of ethics and Code of Professional Conducts among other important documents for medical radiation practitioners in South Australia. Equally, AIR is responsible for promotion, encouragement, cultivation, and maintenance of high principles of practice and proficiency in the area of Medical Radiation Science. This role is facilitated through regular educational activities, discussions, and consultations among members as well as collaborations with other state agencies like the Department of Health to promote practice and efficiency. In terms of the qualification of professionals, AIR promotes education of undergraduate students across Australia and develops standards and competencies that guide the practice of medical radiation. It is also at the centre of scholarship awarding and develops programs used in professional development for people working in the medical radiation sector.
The Medical Radiation Technologists Board of Queensland is responsible for “supervised practice program for the medical imaging technology profession is an activity carried out.” The Board also oversees the qualification and registration of individuals who want to work as a radiation technologist, providing the minimum standards and requirements for them to operate. This body is managed with the same responsibilities as those of Medical Radiation Technologists of British Columbia, who operate under the legislations enacted in three provinces. In British Columbia, Ontario province is the only one that is not covered by a professional society. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) was only registered recently in the province.
Like the practice in the qualification for registration, Australian professional associations require their members to have a “qualification in the profession that is substantially equivalent to or based on similar competencies to that required for, a current Australian or New Zealand qualification.” The minimum qualifications are determined in various legislations and policies developed at the Department of Health in collaboration with medical practitioners in the area of medical radiations. Australian Institute of Radiotherapy also provides registration requirements contained in the Guidelines for Professional Conduct for Radiographers, Radiation Therapists and Sonographers,which medical radiation specialists must achieve to practice in the country. The other professional body is the Australia and New Zealand Society of Nuclear Medicine, which is composed of multidisciplinary association physicists, physicians, chemists, technologists, radiopharmacists, and all interested partners in nuclear medicine.
The arrangement, in terms of a mandate and area of operation, for regulatory and professional associations in Australia follows international practice in countries like the United Kingdom. The mandate is drawn from the specialization of the members who make up the professional associations. The aim revolves around ensuring that professional practitioners are duly qualified to provide the services in the area of their practice. They are expected to meet the minimum set standards that define the needs and demands of their professional area. The associations also provide opportunities for career development through trainings, seminars, and conferences where registered members are brought up to learn more about the new development in their profession. In addition, they provide regulations to colleges and universities where students are trained and equipped to work in a specific area of specialization in medical radiology.
The majority of the regulatory and professional bodies in Australia and other countries are concerned with the promotion of best practice in the area of radiology. Most of them have responsibilities for ensuring that medical practitioners are qualified to work in the area of their specialization. Therefore, they develop the minimum requirements for one to be qualified to work in the radiology sector. They also provide registration of their members and promote their ethical conduct. Even though the requirements vary from one authority to another, the objective is to foster a safe environment for both the medical practitioner and their patients. Specific authorities and regulatory bodies are designated in different provinces in Australia as well as other countries like the UK, Canada, and the U.S. to conduct registration and promote employment requirements. All the authorities require people seeking employment to state their qualifications in their area of study and the date of qualification for awarding of a license or permit to work in the country.
The regulatory bodies in Australia and other countries like Canada and the U.S. are government entities formed through an Act and given the mandate to implement regulations in the health sector. For example, the Australia’s Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency is the umbrella body that regulates all other professional associations in whichever area of medical practice. This is the case with other countries where there are umbrella regulatory bodies that oversee the work of professional associations. On the other hand, the Australian Institute of Radiology specifically deals with the issues that concern the practice of medical radiation. Within these specialized bodies, there are specific bodies concerned with a particular area of practice and they work under the rules and guidelines of their parent organization. This arrangement ensures specificity of the regulations, guaranteeing high quality service in an area that is growing very fast due to high demand and changing technology.
Impact of Regulatory and Professional Association on Working Practice
Australian regulatory and professional associations have the mandate to establish standards and policies that should be adhered to by medical practitioners. Medical radiation is a sensitive area that requires people working there to be competently qualified to be able to provide high quality and safe services to the clients. As such, the existing authorities provide the standards and regulations, which must be reinforced by facility managers in areas where medical radiology is offered. The medical field can be affected by quacks and unqualified doctors purporting to provide effective services to their patients. As a result, the authorities ensure that the practice in medical radiations is up to the national and international standards, as espoused by the International Radiology practitioners.
The recommended rules and procedures on qualification of radiologists and other professionals working in the medical radiation sector also allows practitioners from abroad to be able to work in Australia, while also giving the Australian doctors an opportunity to work in other countries. The authorities and professional associations also guarantee that Code of Ethics and Code of Conduct are observed by people working in the medical radiations. They promote the adherence to ethical practice in the radiology departments by making sure that their members are qualified. They must also observe the highest standards of ethics, respecting their patients, using the correct equipment, and avoiding injuries to themselves and their patients during treatments.
The Need for Authorities and Professional Associations in Medical Radiations in Australia
The health needs in radiology is bound to increase as many people are reaching old age in Australia. Also, the changing landscape in health care characterized by new technology equipment and hectic lifestyle means that the needs of patients requiring radiology services are also likely to change. To this end, regulatory and professional associations will continue to play a crucial role in regulation of the medical radiology industry in Australia’s health sector. There is thus no doubt that the regulatory and professional associations will be needed much more in the future than they are needed now.
As the diversification in the professional practice of medical radiation continues to take place, the need to maintain standards, ensure minimum qualifications, and adherence to ethical practice will be essential. The regulatory and professional bodies will also serve as a link with other international organizations in an effort to improve the health care experience of patients seeking radiology services in Australia and other countries. Moreover, radiologists and other professionals working in the health sector will need to be registered and given licenses to operate in the area of their profession. Consequently, the role and duty that regulatory and professional bodies are going to play in the Australian sector will be important for the attainment of the best practice in the delivery of medical radiation services to patients.
The researched database shows that Australia’s medical radiation is active with many regulatory and professional associations providing standards and policies for medical practitioners. The associations are founded in order to make certain that minimum standards of qualification are attained by those who want to work in medical radiology. The policies and regulations are drawn from the international practice of medical radiology and hence the objectives and aims are similar to most of the international professional bodies dealing with medical radiology. The role played by these professional associations is important to the Australia’s health sector and should, therefore, be encouraged to continue providing their services to the members and patients.