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Sometimes humble organisations get the

chance to pull off something extraordinary.

And sometimes—just sometimes—it’s

worth shouting it from the rooftops. The

Australian Physiotherapy Council (the

Council) is an independent national

body charged to accredit entry-level

physiotherapy programs and to assess the

qualifications, skills and key competencies

of overseas-qualified physiotherapists for

registration and migration purposes.

Consider this: GPs refer more patients

to physiotherapists than any other

healthcare profession; and with the greatest

demographic shift of our time on our

doorstep (the aged population is currently

at its highest level in history), the demand

for physiotherapy is increasing at an

exponential rate.

This makes perfect sense when you consider

that, like GPs, physiotherapists provide

continuum-of-life care. Physiotherapists

support school-aged children with

developmental movement challenges; elite

athletes to exceed their goals; women’s and

men’s health; older Australians in maintaining

mobility, vitality and, ultimately independence;

patients with cancer, neurological disorders

and cardiorespiratory conditions, and those

who have a stroke; and patients of all ages

with range of motion, pain management and

orthopaedic challenges.

So, when you are liable for ensuring that

overseas-qualified physiotherapists are not

only as academically qualified as domestically

trained physiotherapists, but also as

competent to handle Australia’s diverse range

of patients (in terms of medical presentations,

demography, age and widely varying cultural

backgrounds) and to independently practise

in an partially self-regulated, first contact

practitioner environment, it might be fair to say

that this Council has a colossal responsibility

and a vital duty to perform.

As incoming CEO of the Council, there were

a number of challenges the organisation

had faced for some time:

the growth in demand of physiotherapists

in Australia due in no small part to

the imminent ageing population

explosion and uneven distribution of the

physiotherapy workforce

the list of overseas-qualified

physiotherapists waiting for allocations

in the assessment process was ever-

growing, as overburdened Australian

hospitals faced the increasing

challenge to accommodate and/or

prioritise our assessment program

the limitations associated with the

current assessment process using real

patients to reliably and fairly measure

the breadth of physiotherapy practice

and competency of candidates

our national office’s lease was about

to expire and a new premises had to

be found.

So the challenge was this: could all these

variables coalesce into a ground-breaking

opportunity? Many minds converged to

determine the answer to this one critical

question, and the hypothesis was this: with

the right premises sourced, we could build

a bespoke state-of-the-art simulation facility

which would:

compromise nothing as far as

assessment of clinical skill is


truncate waiting lists for overseas-

qualified physiotherapists

offer highly-trained simulated patients

(ie, actors) with rich case histories

that can straddle multifarious health

considerations (which is often hard

to source with real-life patients)

provide an assessment environment

that realistically replicates a patient

encounter in multiple environments

(including hospital, private practice and

rehabilitation settings) that cover the

breadth of practice

improve standardisation

allow candidates to showcase the full

gamut of clinical skills including physical

examination, communication and rapport

building, as well as history-taking

conclusively preserve the excellent

standard of patient care in Australia

entrench Australia’s position as a

thought leader in the international

health assessment space.

Ambitious? Yes. Punching above our

weight? Absolutely. Possibilities for allied

health final assessments both locally and

across the globe? Endless.

Objective structured clinical examinations

(OSCEs) have been used for many years

within health professional assessment

Even better than the real thing


The Australian Physiotherapy Council and its CEO,

Anton Barnett-Harris, convert an organisational challenge into a world-leading, state-of-the-art

simulation lab for practical assessments of overseas-qualified physiotherapists.