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Communication to SIMG candidates regarding training during the COVID-19 pandemic

03 April 2020
 
 
 

The Royal Australian New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) recognises the urgent health crisis its impacts within the Australian and New Zealand communities and training environments.

The RANZCP understands that candidates are concerned that their progress through training, assessments and exams, teaching and clinical experience may be adversely affected due to the COVID-19 pandemic and wishes to reassure you, that every attempt will be made to ensure that candidates will not be disadvantaged due to decisions made and that all personal circumstances will be considered.

Impact on the Specialist Pathway to Fellowship

The Committee for Special International Medical Graduate Education (CSIMGE), in consultation with the Education Committee and the RANZCP Board, have considered and supported the following guiding principles for candidates during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

  • The RANZCP asks all SIMG candidates and supervisors to ensure that the RANZCP policies relating to the Fellowship requirements on the Specialist Pathway achieved whenever possible to provide the highest standards for the communities we serve.
     
  • The CSIMGE wish to demonstrate flexibility for SIMG candidate completion of training and assessment requirements.
     
  • In the case of new applicants applying for entry to the Specialist Pathway, all specialist assessment interviews will not take place for at least six months due to Australian and New Zealand border closures, restrictions for interstate travel in Australia and lack of interviewer availability due to redeployment, commitments to health services etc.
     
  • The CSIMGE wishes to highlight to all SIMG candidates that there must always be clear lines of responsibility to a consultant at all times with support from an RANZCP supervisor. The value of supervision in these difficult times cannot be underemphasized in terms of protecting the welfare of candidates and the safety of patients.

Substantial comparability candidates

  • The CSIMGE will work with the SCARP to consider extensions to the 12-month placement for substantially comparable candidates who are impacted by COVID-19 (e.g.: impact of delays with 360 feedback and CbDs). Extensions will be considered on a case by case basis on application by the candidate. 
     
  • Case-based Discussions (CbD) assessments for substantial comparability candidates will be postponed until September 2020 and will be reviewed after this time. If candidates have passed two CBD’s with no less than on overall ‘achieve’ mark, the third CbD may be waived. Decisions will be made by CSIMGE in consultation with SCARP and communicated to candidates once finalised.
     
  • The CSIMGE will grant an additional year of accreditation to Substantial Comparability Supervisors and Assessors who are required to undergo supervisor re-accreditation during 2020.
     
  • Where there is a lack of available supervision, the provision of supervision by a non-substantial comparability accredited supervisor be permitted this period, relaxing the current supervision requirements for Substantial Comparability Placement. Supervision by a Fellow of the RANZCP would be acceptable under these circumstances.

Partial comparability candidates

  • Partially comparable candidates will be required to liaise with the relevant SIMG Director of Training, their delegate or the RANZCP SIMGE team if there are issues preventing supervision or completion of training requirements so that support or possible alternative arrangements can be discussed.
     
  • The CSIMGE will provide a 12 month extension for all candidates on the partial comparability pathway reflecting the impact that COVID-19 (e.g.: redeployment, illness, quarantine etc.) may have on their training.  Any candidates who have reached the maximum timeframe on the Specialist Pathway of four (4) calendar years, will be considered on a case by case basis.
     
  • The CSIMGE recognises that the submission of ITAs, EPAs, OCAs may be delayed during this period and will exercise flexibility regarding the submission of training forms.
     
  • The CSIMGE notes that Psychotherapy Written Case patients may be reluctant to attend for ongoing care or services may no longer provide the facilities. Provision of psychotherapy can be undertaken by videoconference or teleconference (where no other option is available) with the support of the psychotherapy supervisor, which may also be via videoconference, amid sound clinical governance is acceptable. Pausing the case is also acceptable however, patient preference in this matter is paramount. Please involve the DOT or their delegate in any psychotherapy videoconferencing decisions.
     
  • Candidates are encouraged not to commence a Psychodynamic Psychotherapy case during the COVID-19 pandemic.
     
  • The CSIMGE acknowledges that the cancellation of the April OSCE is stressful for SIMG Candidates and amid stretched current resources the CSIMGE will continue to encourage all Fellows and Supervisors to support SIMG Candidates. 

It is noted that the above points will require changes to processes and procedures and the CSIMGE, PCARP, SCARP and RANZCP staff will continue to work towards the operationalisation of these principles. The CSIMGE will continue to appraise our challenges and support SIMG Candidates during this difficult period.

Impact on Examinations and Assessments

Due to the escalating pandemic of the COVID-19 and the implications of re-deployment of the RANZCP SIMG candidates and Fellows, the restrictions placed by the Health Authorities and Australian Government on large gatherings for non-essential activities for health care workforce and social distancing requirements have implications on the RANZCP’s ability to schedule and provide examinations and the candidates capacity to prepare for examinations.

OSCE

As a result, the RANZCP is exploring a range of options regarding future OSCE exam and its formats for the scheduled September OSCE. Due to the uncertainty of the pandemic, the Committee for Examinations (CFE) is exploring an appropriately timely approach to consider a wide range of options for the OSCE. This includes but not limited to:

  • Holding in venues other than health environments
  • Exploring different format to OSCE delivery
  • Holding examinations across two different locations
  • Cancelling September OSCE subject to government advice on COVID-19

The CSIMGE will make these determinations in close consultation with the Education Committee and the Overseas Trained Psychiatrists Representative Committee, and provide a timely communication to the SIMG Candidates 3 months ahead of the examinations.

MCQ and Essay-Style Examinations

In addition, the CFE is currently reviewing feasibility of holding MCQ exam in July and Essay exam in August. While we are monitoring the advice of the Health Authorities and Government restrictions closely, candidate welfare is of paramount importance to the RANZCP as their ability to prepare for the examinations and adequately perform at this unprecedented and challenging times. The CFE is considering all aspects of potential cancellation of these examinations and will present its recommendations to the Education Committee and then the Board in 2-3 weeks’ time. The RANZCP will be developing a communications strategy to keep candidates informed around the currently planned examinations.

Paper-based submissions

Due to the transition of RANZCP staff to work from home arrangements, all postal items relating to Psychotherapy Written Case will not be processed. We apologise for this short notice and any inconvenience caused.

The RANZCP will start accepting submissions from Monday, 06/04/2020 by email for the Psychotherapy Written Case. This short break in accepting submissions is required for system updates. The transition to email is expected to make the submission process easier for trainees and SIMG candidates. CD copies of submissions will no longer be required.

If you presently have material in the post that has not been received and receipt confirmed by the RANZCP, please resubmit via email in the format specified on the RANZCP website. Details on the required format of the submissions will be available on the RANZCP website.

Should you have any queries or feedback please feel free to contact simge@ranzcp.org or for any questions regarding the Psychotherapy Written Case submission, please contact mary.wescombe@ranzcp.org.

Member Wellbeing

If you are experiencing any difficulties you require support with, please contact the RANZCP via the confidential Member Welfare Support Line on 1800 941 002 or support@ranzcp.org. For additional support services please refer to the Support for trainees and SIMGs page on the RANZCP website.