Canberra Day 94

[Wednesday 14th December]

Well today was a terrible day career-wise, nothing fatal but nothing fun, so it’s a good thing that I’m in Canberra with a licence to explore and enjoy new experiences.

I’m having some issues with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) that manages the registration of 14 different health professionals, including pharmacists. Previously we had our own pharmacy board, but in 2010 several boards were amalgamated and now we are managed jointly. This new organisation, AHPRA, manages our annual registration including our compulsory continuing professional development (CPD) requirements, whilst another organisation manages the regulation of pharmacies and pharmacy departments. All very boring and tedious, until your annual registration comes up against a problem. In my case a CPD problem. Each year between October 1st and September 30th, every registered pharmacist in Australia now has to achieve 40 hours of CPD to qualify to be re-registered. After the amalgamation the amount of CPD to be achieved began as 20 hours and increased over a couple of years. Its pretty standard now, and pretty achievable if you’re working, which is the point; to keep you up to date.

I first went on sick leave in March 2014 and stayed on sick leave for several months before I dragged my reluctant body back to work only part time for 6 weeks in September/October that year to complete my contract at the Alfred, in the vain hope that I would build up professional fitness quick enough to convince my workplace that I was fit and well to work and be re-hired. I was desperately hoping to stay on because I loved that job. It was a joke looking at it now; there was no way I was even fit for the very part time work I was doing then let alone more. But the point being, between October 1st 2013 and September 30th 2014, the annual CPD year, I worked 6 months and work generates CPD as does starting a new job as does changing positions within a job all of which applied to me. So even at the 6 month mark when I got sick I had oodles of CPD numbering probably around 50 or 60 hours. So I finished my feeble 6 weeks in dispensary, ended my contract and went back to bed.

By the time I got going again and went back to work, it was July of 2015. Already up to 9 out of 12 months of the CPD year, and to be honest, to this point CPD hadn’t even crossed my mind! A little teensy nervous breakdown and the associated issues had occupied the major part of my brain for months on end and work had just gone away. Even now returning to work I was conscious of the need to get up to date with the many new drugs and devices that had hit the market in the last year and a bit, but I hadn’t thought particularly of my CPD requirements with respect to my registration. I did all the required new job CPD, I did study on things that were relevant, I recorded it all and never really thought of whether I was making the 40 hour amount. Which is unfortunate, because I didn’t make it! I got 25 hours, not 40.

And there is no clause for people on sick leave. Or for people not working. You’re either practising or not practising. So, in November 2015 when I was re-registering as a pharmacist and got to the compulsory question about whether I had completed 40 hours in the previous year, I had to answer in the negative as in I did NOT meet the CPD requirements. And I won’t say that all hell broke loose, but all kinds of official pharmacy correspondence started flying around the web and through the postal service, and today is just another step in the painful process that is rectifying the situation! I’m not complaining about having to fix this up; I should have to. I’m a health professional and patients need to be sure of me being up to date and on top of the latest drugs and professional practice. I’m just complaining about the amazing bureaucracy that prevails in these matters! It is not easy to show that you have done your best to fix it, that you’ve learnt your lesson, and that you’ll do better in the future. Especially if you’re out of work again, because things just don’t come up when you’re not dispensing and reviewing medications on a daily basis. You have to actively look for things, and it’s just harder. But it’s part of my commitment and I have to just get on with it. So I’m off to send yet another email, which will probably get yet another “out of office” reply, followed by an actual reply sometime in the next two weeks or so telling me that there’s yet another technicality that I haven’t met because I was never told about it, followed by another email from me phrased very conservatively despite my inner rage and so on. You get the drill!

So there’s that, and following that the awful words “we’re terminating you”!! Seriously?! I went back to work officially in June 2015 with a fixed term 9 month contract. I guess I always assumed that there would be a possibility for extension at the end, assuming they liked me and my work was up to scratch etc. But no, despite putting me through two traditional interviews and a non traditional observation of practice interview I was never successful in getting an extension. So I was told I would be put on the casual list and they’d call me, which they never have but that suited me lately being in Canberra and all. So now out of the blue I get a call to say sorry, it’s just a HR thing but because you haven’t worked for us in 3 months we have to terminate you!! I’m sorry, what?! I’m costing you zip, I’m (usually) a resource available at short notice a 4 minute walk away, and if this was always a HR thing, why didn’t you just say goodbye at the end of my contract, instead of giving me an impression that I’d be called up to work?? So when I get back I have to return my keys and it’s all over. Well what a wake up!! Could this day get worse for my career?

Luckily I have good things planned so let’s off to the High Court to observe other people getting the rough end of the stick, potentially. I won’t pretend to understand the case that was being argued but the solemnity and the ceremony of it all was very impressive and the two counsels arguing were humorous in their own way, especially one who referred to “my learned friend” at the beginning or end of every sentence! I’m pretty sure even the 5 judges were smiling under their wigs. A bit of light relief, and I’m glad that becoming a lawyer was never on my list. I took my fill then left, remembering to pause and bow to the judges on my way out!

And now to really flush all that career mess out of my system!! I’ve been looking forward to this christmas concert by Igitur Nos at the National Library for a couple of weeks now. Turns out it wasn’t quite what I was expecting…more classical music, Latin and high brow Christmas songs than your typical carols. But it was pretty nice. Then a drive by a few places of interest: the historical and very pink Calthorpes House, and a few embassies.

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Lucky I have a lovely catch up with a friend after lunch. Nothing so soothing as hanging out with a friendly face and chatting away the afternoon. A super cute little baby helps just a little bit too! Happy day…in the end.

Canberra Day 93

[Tuesday 13th December]

Alright lovely readers, we’re on fire! So let’s keep it moving with the next Canberra day; promise we don’t have far til the end.

Today is a bit about goodbyes. The days are increasingly more about leaving and less about Canberra but I’m still fitting a few things in. I had lunch today with a new friend who has been super lovely to me and hubby while we’ve been in Canberra, and we had a great time catching up, albeit for the last time. I also realised that I’ve gotten behind in keeping family and friends up to date so I wrote some postcards, and then bought a few souvenirs to remind me of the experiences we’ve had. As I was popping into the souvenir store at National Portrait Gallery I saw that they had a new exhibit: this one was digital so photos of it don’t do it justice, but some incredible talent in short videos.

I started thinking today about things I needed to organise before I get home: firstly make an appointment with my psychiatrist for the first time in nearly 4 months! He gets booked a month or two in advance so no time like the present to make sure I can see him soon after I get home. I can’t believe that its been 3 months without meeting with him. I guess it shows how far I’ve come that I went off to Canberra so cheerfully knowing that I wouldn’t be able to see him for at least 3 months. Any early in the piece and I wouldn’t have been prepared to go more than a month without seeing him. It helped a lot that I have his mobile number and have the okay to call at any time, definitely. And hey, I’ve survived 3 months without any debrief or counselling. It’s not something I’d recommend but I’m pleased that I got through it, and got through it pretty well. But nevertheless I’ll be glad to touch base again.

Today I had a couple of things I wanted to do. First off was yet another trip to the National Library which has been a surprising treasure trove of interesting exhibits and fascinating behind-the-scenes insights. Today I’m checking out an exhibit of Robert Ingpen called Wonderlands. Does it sound random to you? Maybe it wouldn’t be if you saw his paintings, or illustrations, in such books as Wind in the Willows, Alice in Wonderland, Pinocchio, Tom Sawyer and more. He’s a genius artist and the display was wonderful, if brief. And of course I had to poke my nose into The Sell exhibit once again; can’t get enough of cheesy advertising!

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Alice in Wonderland

I also wanted to walk next door and sit in on the High Court, but unfortunately they had concluded earlier in the day; much earlier at 11am. But hey, why not have a look around at the courts while I’m here, especially as you can’t take photos while the court is sitting, but you can photograph the rooms empty. And I have to say, the staff at the High Court couldn’t be more lovely and helpful! I highly recommend making time to talk to them if you visit. They have such a mental dossier of interesting facts and figures about the courts, the judges, past cases, upcoming cases, history of the courts, the decor…really anything that you’d ever want to know!! Just ask; you won’t be sorry.

Then on the way home I drove around the rear of Parliament House, an area you don’t see in pictures or in person much at all. Turns out, Australian Federal Police don’t really like you seeing it, at least not if you pause the car and take photos!! First time being pulled over by federal police! Oops! That’s an experience I don’t have the nerves to go through again. They were perfectly lovely and just asked me to keep driving, but still, flashing lights and the word “federal” have a way of pushing your heart rate up!

Last and most important job of the day: take dinner to Chester at work. This poor guy is working his butt off 60 hours a week at the moment, and barely seeing daylight!! They just will not extend the deadline despite the extremely poor chance of it reasonably being met. So we’re going down the path of it being unreasonably met! I say we: I’m not really doing anything, but I feel terribly about it, even while swanning around enjoying myself.