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Protected titles

Take care not to use ‘protected titles'

Many health professionals in Australia are registered practitioners, and the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) holds the register on behalf of the national boards for those professions. There are certain protected titles, which are set out in the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law 2009, which are now reserved for registered practitioners.

The social work profession is not currently registered. While there are campaigns for the consideration of national registration, the current situation is that social work remains an unregistered profession.

Social worker members should be aware that they must not use a protected title. It is an offence to use a protected title unlawfully. It would therefore be prudent not to use the title ‘practitioner’ as this could be interpreted by the public or other professionals to mean that you are a registered health practitioner, when you are not. If you use the term practitioner in a health context, it would be prudent to also clarify that you are an ‘unregistered health practitioner’ (which is the approach used in some states' Code of Conduct for Unregistered Health Practitioners).

For members with dual qualifications, take care that you only use a protected title if you are a registered practitioner in a registered profession, and are performing the activity in your role as a registered practitioner.

AHPRA is active in pursuing the unlawful use of protected titles.

Here is AHPRA’s explanation of this issue, quoted from their website.

Section 113 of the National Law outlines more details on protected titles and who may carry out the restricted acts. Section 97 of the National Law outlines more details on the use of the title ‘acupuncturist’.

The National Law restricts the use of protected titles. This means that it is unlawful for someone to knowingly or recklessly take or use a title to make someone believe they are registered in one of the health professions listed in the table below, as well as other practices including using a specialist title when the person does not have specialist registration.

Further, it is unlawful for someone to lead someone to believe that another person is registered in a health profession from the list below.

Profession

Title

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health practice

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health practitioner, Aboriginal health practitioner, Torres Strait Islander health practitioner

Chinese medicine

Chinese medicine practitioner, Chinese herbal dispenser, Chinese herbal medicine practitioner, Oriental medicine practitioner, acupuncturist

Chiropractic

Chiropractor

Dental

Dentist, dental therapist, dental hygienist, dental prosthetist, oral health therapist

Medical

Medical practitioner

Medical radiation practice

Medical radiation practitioner, diagnostic radiographer, medical imaging technologist, radiographer, nuclear medicine scientist, nuclear medicine technologist, radiation therapist

Nursing and midwifery

Nurse, registered nurse, nurse practitioner, enrolled nurse, midwife, midwife practitioner

Occupational therapy

Occupational therapist

Optometry

Optometrist, optician

Osteopathy

Osteopath

Paramedicine

Paramedic

Pharmacy

Pharmacist, pharmaceutical chemist

Physiotherapy

Physiotherapist, physical therapist

Podiatry

Podiatrist, chiropodist

Psychology

Psychologist

 

Here is AHPRA’s summary of what to be aware of in relation to Protected titles in your advertising from their Guidelines for advertising regulated services, quoted from their website.

A5(a) Summary of relevant sections of the National Law

Sections 113 - 119 describe the title and practice protections under the National Law including the penalties for offences by individuals and bodies corporate.

Section 113 provides that a person cannot knowingly or recklessly take or use a protected title found in the table of that section or a prescribed title for a health profession which would induce a belief that the person is registered in that profession.

Section 115 provides that a person cannot knowingly or recklessly take or use the titles, ‘dental specialist’, ‘medical specialist’ or ‘a specialist title for a recognised specialty’ unless the person is registered under that specialty.

Section 116 provides that a person who is not a registered health practitioner must not knowingly or recklessly (i) take or use the title ‘registered health practitioner’ or claim to be so registered or (ii) take or use a title, name, initial, symbol, word or description to indicate the person is a health practitioner or claim to be a health practitioner or (iii) indicate the person is authorised or qualified to practise as a health practitioner.

Section 117 provides that a person must not knowingly or recklessly claim or hold him or herself out to be registered or qualified to practise in a health profession or a division of a health profession if the person is not so registered. Section 117 also provides that a person cannot use or take a title which would induce a belief that such a person is so registered.

Section 118 provides that a person who is not a specialist health practitioner must not knowingly or recklessly take or use the title ‘specialist health practitioner’. Further a person must not use a title, name, symbol, word or description that would induce a belief that a person is or is authorised or qualified as a specialist health practitioner. Further the person must not claim or hold out to be registered in a recognised specialty or claim to be qualified to practise as a specialist health practitioner.

Section 119 provides that a person must not knowingly or recklessly make claims about a type of registration, endorsement, or registration in a recognised specialty, that the person does not have. Further, a person must not knowingly or recklessly make claims about another person having a type of registration, endorsement, or registration in a specialty that the person does not have. These are called ‘holding out’ provisions.

Note: the above is a summary only – please consult the National Law for more detail.

What can you say?

You can refer to yourself as a social worker.

You may also refer to yourself as a health care worker, if that is appropriate if you work in the health services.

Social workers are health care workers when providing a health service, as an unregistered health professional or worker. There is provision for this in the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law 2009 (Cth). Note that the National Code of Conduct for Health Care Workers (2014), supported by Commonwealth of Australian Governments, applies to health care workers, in addition to the required AASW membership standards: AASW Code of Ethics and the relevant AASW Practice Standards.

If you hold current accreditation through AASW as a mental health social worker, and your membership of AASW is current, you may refer to yourself as an Accredited Mental Health Social Worker.

AASW - Australian Association of Social Workers