Intern update: COVID-19 requirement changes

The Pharmacy Board of Australia has announced its decision to modify some of the requirements for general registration during COVID-19

The new interim arrangements only apply during the period of the pandemic, the Board says.

The Board met on 24 April to discuss the issues facing current interns, noting that its primary role is to protect the health, safety and wellbeing of the public by ensuring pharmacists are competent and fit to practise.

“We also recognise that it is important to help interns transitioning to general registration during COVID-19 when their contribution to the pharmacy workforce is vital,” the Board says.

“The current minimum requirements for supervised practice for pharmacy interns are set out in the Board’s Registration standard: Supervised practice arrangements.

“Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, issues such as self-isolation, illness or pharmacy closure may mean that interns may be unable to complete the required number of supervised practice hours within the usual 12-month timeframe.

“We have decided to vary the requirements for supervised practice for interns during 2020.”

As a result of this decision, the following modifications to internships apply during COVID-19:

  1. The Board has reduced the number of supervised practice hours required for general registration from 1,824 hours to 1,575 hours.
  2. It has waived the requirement for interns to complete a minimum of 152 hours of supervised practice under the supervision of an individual preceptor for those hours to count towards the period of supervised practice.
  3. It has also waived the requirement for interns to complete a minimum of 80 hours of supervised practice during any four consecutive calendar weeks.

“The standard already provides flexibility in the delivery of training by an approved preceptor,” the Board says.

“If there are challenges that affect the capacity of preceptors and employers to continue to supervise interns at their workplace, other options can be considered.”

As for exams, the Australian Pharmacy Council has already issued a statement saying that the June and July written exams are cancelled, and to be replaced with an exam in October 2020, due to closure of the testing centres.

“The oral exam is conducted by Ahpra on behalf of the Board. If interns have been affected by the pandemic, we are ensuring they can still sit the oral exam in 2020. We have made some modifications,” the Board says.

“The June 2020 oral exams will still proceed but will be delivered through an online platform to ensure the safety of candidates and examiners during COVID-19.

“More information on the oral exam, including the mode of delivery and the particular arrangements required, can be found on the Board’s website and will be notified to each candidate enrolled in the June 2020 oral exams.”

At this stage, the October 2020 oral exams will be delivered face to face with the following modifications:

  1. The Board will accept applications to sit the October 2020 oral exam from interns who have completed 75% of the revised number of supervised practice hours required for general registration (1,575 hours); that is, 1,181 hours.
  2. A pass in the written exam will not be required to enter the October 2020 oral exam. If an intern has not yet passed the written exam, both the written and oral exams can be completed during the same examination period in October 2020. 
  3. If they complete both the written and oral exams in October 2020 and pass only one of the exams, that result remains valid for 18 months. To be eligible for general registration they are required to re-sit and pass the other exam in the next available session or within the subsequent 18 months.

The Board thanked interns for their understanding and patience during these “challenging” times and said it appreciated their efforts to support the profession and the community.

“The Board understands that interns have questions and concerns about how they can complete their supervised practice and assessments required for general registration during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We know that both interns and preceptors and the rest of the pharmacy workforce are working extremely hard in very challenging circumstances to deliver services to the public. We would like to thank you all for your significant contribution.”

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