Speaker You’re listening to Allied Health Podcast, talking all things Allied Health with your hosts, Danielle Weedon, physiotherapist, and Clare Jones, occupational therapist.
Danielle Weedon In episode 21 of Allied Health Podcast, Clare meets with Lauren Sexton, member development advisor at ESSA – Exercise Sports and Science Australia. Lauren overviews ESSA as Australia’s peak professional body and sole accrediting authority for exercise physiologists, what it means to be a member and the many benefits of joining ESSA.
Clare Jones Today, I’m joined by Lauren Sexton. ESSA accredited EP and the member development advisor at ESSA. Welcome, Lauren.
Lauren Sexton Thank you very much for having me. I really appreciate it.
Clare Jones My pleasure. So today we’re going to be talking all things ESSA. Before we get started, do you want to give us a little overview of who you are and your background?
Lauren Sexton No worries. So like you said, I’m Lauren Sexton. I’m an accredited exercise physiologist. I grew up and studied on the Sunshine Coast. I played a lot of sport when I was younger, so I always kind of knew I wanted to study something in the field of exercise science and decided to do a bachelor of Clinical Exercise Science at USC, and I became an accredited exercise physiologist in 2012. So throughout my career, I’ve worked predominantly in private practice, so I’ve worked in private practice for nine years and moved from the Sunshine Coast down to Brisbane for more sort of opportunities in employment. And then I moved into the member development advisor role at ESSA this year in July and haven’t looked back since, so it’s been a great transition from private practice into working for ESA. I mainly did a lot of sort of team leader roles in my previous position, and now I’m able to do that for nearly 7000 EPs. So that’s been a really fantastic opportunity for me.
Clare Jones So lots of transferable skills into this new role.
Lauren Sexton Absolutely. Yeah.
Clare Jones So what is ESSA? And how does ESSA different differ from AHPRA?
Lauren Sexton So ESSA was founded in 1991, and it was formally known as the Australian Association for Exercise and Sport Science. And so ESSA is a professional organisation, and we’re committed to establishing, promoting and defending career paths of tertiary trained exercise and sport science practitioners. So we have a few different streams of exercise and sport science members. They’re all degree qualified, and they include exercise scientists, exercise physiologists, accredited sports scientists and accredited high performance managers. So each of these professions play a really important part in improving health and performance status of Australians and athletes worldwide. So with the Olympics, we saw a lot of our accredited high performance managers and sport scientists working there. So that was really great to see. But I guess a big question that students and new grads ask is why is ESSA not accredited with AHPRA? So AHPRA regulates the national registration and accreditation scheme and the requirements of health practitioner regulation national law. So within that, there’s a few professions that are governed by that, so things like dentists, nurses, physiotherapists, they all have to be AHPRA accredited to practise. So exercise physiology is a self-regulated health profession, so it means that the requirements of the health practitioner regulation national laws don’t apply to us. So instead, ESSA is a member of the National Alliance of Self-Regulating Health Professions, which is NASRHP for short. So it’s an independent body, and it provides a quality framework for self regulating health professions. So we’re amongst dietitians – they’re probably a big association that we work with under NASRHP. There’s a few reasons why ESSA is not accredited with AHPRA. The first reason is because the government doesn’t deem that profession risk enough to the public, and ESSA provides sufficient self-regulation for its profession that we don’t need to be under that body. And the second reason is because it would be too costly to the government for exercise physiology profession to be regulated. So this could result in negative impact on our profession, where we’d see our registrations increase to members so that cost would be passed on to our members. So because we’re not part of AHPRA, ESSA’s advocacy efforts go above and beyond for our members to ensure that we are included in all the government’s decisions. So yeah, that’s a little bit of why we’re not part of AHPRA.
Clare Jones So ESSA plays a huge advocacy role.
Lauren Sexton Massive. I think I didn’t really realise until I entered this role at ESSA to see our team and what they do for our members to make sure that we’re in line with the other sort of more regulated bodies like physiotherapists, and we’re included in all the decisions that the government makes. So just to give an example, during COVID, physiotherapists, nurses, they were all able to administer COVID vaccinations to members of the public and staff. But because ESSA doesn’t fall under that AHPRA registration, we weren’t able to fulfil those roles. So our advocacy efforts saw that in New South Wales and Victoria, that members of ESSA were able to have jobs because of the advocacy efforts to get them included in those decisions of the government. So, yeah, that was a great win for our members.
Clare Jones Fantastic. So what does it mean to be an ESSA accredited EP?
Lauren Sexton So following graduation from your degree, students can practise without becoming accredited. However, it’s going to limit job opportunities. So when you’re getting on Seek and you’re trying to find a job, most of the requirements will be that you’re an accredited member of ESSA. So it means that when you’re accredited by a body, you have to uphold the framework of practising professionals. So it means that you need to follow your CPD requirements, insurance requirements, and it just ensures that practitioners who are accredited are the best practitioners that they can be. There’s also insurance; there could be insurance implications as well for not being accredited because insurance bodies would see that you’re a more risky person to the public because you’re not following that framework. So the benefits of becoming accredited through ESSA, are the employment opportunities, you’re maintaining that good quality CPD and you’re also practising within the ESSA Code of Professional Conduct and Ethical Practice. It means that you’re reducing your risk in practice to the public that you’re treating. It also means as well, a big thing, is that you’re able to access compensable schemes so things like work covered Medicare DVA. If you’re not accredited, you’re not able to see those clients. So it means that you’re only able to practise within sort of the private practice where someone’s paying a full fee to see you and they’re not getting rebated for those services.
Clare Jones And what are the benefits of being a member of ESSA, say, as a student? Got particular benefits for students?
Lauren Sexton Yeah. So I think, you know, ESSA has a great deal on offer for our student members. I think the biggest thing is that it’s free to join. So easy to join up on our website, really quick and easy. So it means that as a student, you’re able to access free CPD. So we have learning activities, webinars, our standards and compliance course. So that’s basically looking at all the compensable schemes and all your requirements to work within that. So it means you’re going to be set up to be in a better position than other people who aren’t student members, because you know about those schemes and you know the requirements for working in them. You’re also able to do paid and discounted virtual or face to face courses. So as well as the education that ESSA have on offer, we also have advisors. So we’ve got an exercise physiologist, exercise scientist and sports scientist advisor here at ESSA, who’s able to get on the phone with you at any point in time and have a chat to you about your career pathway. So we can give you guidance on your résumé writing, help with your job search, interview tips and tricks, and can even help you starting your own business as a sole trader as well. So we’re always here and available via our state chapter groups on Facebook, which are only accessible to members or able to get on the phone and talk to us about anything, really.
Clare Jones That’s really valuable. That’s a really valuable service to have on hand as a as a student, isn’t it?
Lauren Sexton Yeah, absolutely.
Clare Jones When you’re trying to decide which direction you want to take your career in and even just getting a hit around the compensable schemes like NDIS and WorkCover, they’re complex schemes. So to have that knowledge at hand? Fantastic.
Lauren Sexton Exactly. Yeah. Yeah, there’s a lot to those compensable schemes. So the fact that you’re becoming accredited and then you’re being a member of ESSA means you’re just going to be in a better position when you come out of uni and you know the ins and outs of those schemes. I think employers would look really, look really great on that.
Clare Jones Definitely. Definitely. And what are the benefits for graduate members?
Lauren Sexton So I think once you’ve transitioned from being a student, you become accredited and now you’re a full member of ESA, and we do have all those things that are accessible to student members, but now you’re actually able to put those into practice. So as in addition to all the education that we have on offer, there’s also access to the research journals and we have discounts on things like our clothing and footwear with our sponsored partners. And one of the biggest things to highlight is the professional support we have with our HR partners Strawberry Seed. And so Strawberry Seed are experts in all things HR, and they provide videos, resources, webinars for a range of different topics, so things like resume writing and job searching, employment and career advice. And so you, as a member, you’re able to call them on the phone, book an appointment and then you’re able to have tailored one on one advice with them so they can go through things like your employment contracts, industry pay and awards, and advice on your rights as well. And I think becoming a new grad and working in the industry, it’s really important to have that HR advice. So before you even sign your contract, you’re able to contact them and just double check everything.
Clare Jones That’s really valuable. That’s the, you know, commonly we get asked lots of questions about contracts, and I must say that we do know a lot about contracts here at MediRecruit, but we’re not HR advisors. Actually to get that advice directly from a HR advisor is yet again a really valuable service.
Lauren Sexton Yeah, exactly. And I think, you know, there’s a lot of big words in contracts, things like your restraints, conflicts of interest. So all those things which are worded quite heavily in the contracts, they’re able to put it in layman’s terms for you.
Clare Jones It’s absolutely critical. It’s absolutely critical that you don’t sign a contract until you understand every clause in that. What it means and what are the implications.
Lauren Sexton Yeah, that’s it. Yeah, it is really important.
Clare Jones And it can be so daunting. It can be daunting at any time. It’s so daunting as a student, as you’re transitioning to your first professional role. Yeah, a contract can be something that’s quite daunting.
Lauren Sexton Exactly. And I think as well, you know, new grads are in the best position because for the first time I’ve seen in 10 years of practice, there is so many job opportunities for exercise physiologists and I think everyone in health care. So you want to make sure that that contract is going to work best for you as well. So just making sure you know the ins and outs of it.
Clare Jones Absolutely. And I agree, Lauren. I mean, I’ve worked in allied health recruitment now for 20 years, and I’ve never seen the demand is as high as it is at the moment. And what many therapists are facing is multiple job offers. And to be able to take not one, but two contracts to a consultancy and say, Can you dissect both of these out? And that might help you decide which role you actually take based on the contracts alone.
Lauren Sexton Exactly. Yeah. Yeah, it’s great.
Clare Jones So I know you’ve mentioned CPD and courses on offer. Briefly, do you want to just delve into that a little further, what’s on offer from ESSA?
Lauren Sexton So we, ESSA, really prides itself on the education content that we provide our members. Everyone learns differently, so we make sure that we have all different types of streams of education on offer for our members. So these can include things like our webinars, Fire free podcasts every year on a range of different topics. So we’ve started to implement this yea, our applied skills and knowledge courses. And so this year has been about mental health. So it’s a broken up module of, you know, everything to do with mental health. So it’s applying the knowledge and then how do I apply that into practice? So that’s something that we will be running over the next couple of years on a range of different topics. And we also offer face to face courses and learning activities, which are a case study, and then we start to build on that. So things like your subjective, your objective, assessment, exercise prescription for that case study, and any contraindications that we need to think about with that client type. So because exercise physiology is such a broad, is such a broad thing, we want to ensure that we have enough education for our members that hits all of those, all of those practises. So this involves things like our chronic disease management, practical rehab, so things like hydrotherapy. And then also fitness based courses, so more targeted towards an exercise scientists and sports scientists. But as well on that, so not only do we have education that’s for the clinical practice. We also have our ESSA business network, so that’s more targeted for sole traders and business owners. So it’s a separate website with separate webinars, learning activities and lots of resources on the website to help you going from a sole trader and then scaling your business to a larger business. So we want to ensure that our members know the ins and outs, legal and book implications, marketing support. So there’s lots of different resources that we have on the ESSA business network.
Clare Jones So you’re really covering a wide range of career pathways throughout: exercise, physiology, [?].
Lauren Sexton Exactly, because we, you know, there’s a lot of people that want to own their own business and we want to make sure that we have support for them.
Clare Jones Yeah, yeah. And just on insurances. So can you access professional indemnity and public liability insurance through ESSA?
Lauren Sexton So there’s a reason why you’re not able to. So basically, what would happen is if we had our pool of exercise physiologists that had an insurance through ESSA, what would happen is if we had, say, like $20 million of public liability, that we had multiple claims in a year that eight out of that $20 million, it would put a concern for our members and for ESSA as well. So that’s the reason why we don’t have it accessible through ESSA. So what we’ve chosen to do is partner with Guild, so they provide a number of resources for our members. And you’re also able to access legal advice for policy holders. You get free risk management and you also get a discount as well with our ESSA members. So with that, you need to look at your professional indemnity to keep your ESSA accreditation, and then looking into your public liability as well. But it just depends if the employer is going to provide that insurance for you. But yeah, that’s not something that ESA would provide just because of that risk of not covering everyone under one policy.
Clare Jones But you do have a partnership with Guild where people can access adding that insurance. Do you need professional indemnity insurance to be ESSA accredited?
Lauren Sexton Yes, you do. So that’s just your, you know, your risk of injuring someone so that is really important to have, and to make sure as well that you’re insured enough and appropriately and for what you’re practicing. So Guild are able to do quotes online for you. So you’re able to do like an online questionnaire to fill out exactly how much insurance you would need. You’re also able to get onto the phone to them to have a chat to them. So I think having that support network of Guild has been a really big benefit to our members. So you just want to make sure number one before you start practicing that you’re always appropriately insured and then that the insurer is working for you as well and supporting you just in case anything happens. We always hope that you never need to call them, but it’s great to have a company that’s really supportive of our members.
Clare Jones Lauren, I say that ESSA has a student symposium coming up shortly. Can you tell us a little bit more about that?
Lauren Sexton Yes, it’s a very exciting opportunity for current students. So on the 26th of November, we’ll be running our first ever student symposium. So we’re going to go through all the things you need to know when you go from being a student to becoming a new grad. And so we’re going to run through things like your accreditation process, which can be quite daunting. So it’s great to know that we’ve got advisors that can help you with that. We’re going to go through things like how to maintain your accreditation, and so all those requirements ESSA puts on their accreditation process. We’re going to go through job opportunities as well. So when you’re a new grad, how to find new job positions and also expand on that and show you different fields that you can work in that you might have never thought about before. And we’re also going to have a panel of exercise physiologists who work in different sectors. Just to give you an idea of what employment is like in those fields. So this is going to be an annual event with that first one running in November this year. So we’d love for members to come and join us. So if you are a current student, you will need to be an ESSA student member and you can sign up for free on our website to join us.
Clare Jones That’s a free event, Lauren?
Lauren Sexton Yes, free event. Yeah, yeah.
Clare Jones Yeah, it’s providing exceptional support for your student members, isn’t it?
Lauren Sexton Yeah, yeah. I think we had our member survey recently and they said that customer service has always been a really big benefit to members. So we really pride on what we give our current students and current members so love to give back to the community as well.
Clare Jones Lauren, thank you so much for joining us today. That information has been fantastic. Thank you.
Lauren Sexton Thank you so much for inviting me. I really appreciate it.
Speaker We hope you enjoyed listening to the Allied Health Podcast. In the show’s notes, you’ll find links to our free recruitment resources, job opportunities and health care marketplace insights. To listen to new episodes, please subscribe via Apple, Google, or wherever you find your favourite podcasts and if you’ve enjoyed the show, please give it a five star rating and review. And be sure to tell your therapy colleagues and friends to tune in.