Information for Practising Psychology in the COVID 19 Pandemic

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COVID 19 Update

Moving to Alert Level 1 for the community allied health, scientific and technical providers

Please refer to the Moving to Alert Level 1 information sheet for the community allied health, scientific and technical sectors.

At Covid-19 Alert Level 1 most psychologists will be able to offer services in a way that is very close to “business as usual”.  However the Ministry of Health continues to recommend:

1. Contact tracing is not required but enabling the NZ COVID-19 tracer app is recommended to create a personal digital diary in case its needed in future. For those in private practice, you can get a QR code poster for your premises to go with the app.

2. Discouraging clients from attending  appointments when they are sick e.g. by screening prior to appointment, public messaging or notices.

3. Continuing with infection prevention control measures including good hand hygiene and cleaning appropriate to your setting.

4. While Physical distancing is not required it is encouraged when this is practical.

5. Discouraging “presentism” by employees, colleagues or sole practitioners who are unwell.

The Ministry expects to update its Allied Health providers COVID-19 page to reflect Alert Level 1 very soon. 

Psychologists who are employees should understand and work within the protocols put in place by their employer.    

Other useful information:

· Alert Level 1 Risk Assessment for use with people of unknown COVID-19 status

· Alert Level 1 PPE requirements

· Unite for Recovery COVID-19 Alert Level 1

· Ministry of Education COVID-19 information

· NZ Psychological Society COVID-19 resources for members and the community

· NZ College of Clinical Psychologists COVID-19 information and resources

Psychological Practice under Covid-19 Alert Level 2

The Ministry of Health set out its expectations for Community Allied Health Providers at Alert Level 2.It is expected that these guidelines will be updated shortly and when they are, we will let you know.  Please also check link regularly yourself.  

Psychology is a very diverse profession. If you are an employee please ensure you are familiar with the policies and protocols of your employer agency. If you practise outside the health or disability sectors (e.g. in education, justice or organisational psychology) please also check the relevant guidelines appropriate to that sector or business.

Remember, wherever you practice psychology the key message on the Unite Against COVID-19 website at  Alert Level 2 is “Play it Safe”.

Please also refer to the FAQs information sheet.

If you require further information on PPE please refer to the Guidelines for Personal Protective Equipment use in Health Care settings including care provided in homes information poster.

Moving to Alert Level 2 for the community allied health, scientific and technical sector

Please refer to the Moving to Alert Level 2 information sheet for the community allied health, scientific and technical sector.

Alert Level 3 Guidance

Please see the Alert Level 3 Guidance information sheet for Psychologists working in Non-DHB settings.

Covid 19 Survey

Please find a letter from Prof John Bushnell with the initial Covid 19 results and comments.

Telepsychology and TeleNeuropsychology

The Board and the professional associations have partnered to respond to a number of questions about the ethics and practicalities of delivering psychology and neuropsychology services via remote or telehealth means during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Please see the FAQs for those questions and answers.  If your concern is not addressed there please email [email protected]

If you are within an acute or essential service meeting with clients in person, please review the Ministry of Health’s advice on minimising the risk of transmission of COVID-19 in your workplace.

Telepsychology resources:

The Australian Psychological Society has a useful link on its website: Principles for choosing videoconferencing technology.  The underlying principles in the Board’s 2012 The Practice of Telepsychologyalso remain relevant. The NZ Telehealth Forum & Resource Centre has excellent guidance including on security and technical matters.

APA COVID-19 tele-assessment principles developed by A. Jordan Wright, Joni L. Mihura, Hadas Pade, and David M. McCord and approved by the SPA Board. April 3 2020.

COVID 19 resources

The New Zealand Psychological Society and New Zealand College of Clinical Psychologists have both compiled COVID-19 Resources.

The NZ Health Quality and Safety Commission Resource Hub includes sections for people working in health during the pandemic, Hauora Māori resources, Wellbeing resources and Leadership resources

Self Care and Supports

He Paiaka Totara Peer Supervision for Māori Allied Health Professionals from: He Paiaka is a collective of Māori psychologists, offering support within the current COVID-19 environment. They are now able to provide peer supervision for Māori health professionals (or health professional students) who are working in front-line services and belong to registered affiliated bodies. //There will be no charge.  It is intended to be in place while Aotearoa is in Alert 3 or 4 status. If you or other allied health practitioner are interested, please email Lisa Stewart for further details at [email protected]

Self-care and support for New Zealanders during COVID-19: With the support of the Ministry of Health, Melon has launched a web based platform which has psychosocial resources, peer support and self-care tools to help people struggling with anxiety or loneliness during the lockdown period and beyond. They also have daily live webinars at 10am. This may be of help to practitioners and clients.

**NEW 09/04/20**  Ministry of Health Policy on Student Placements

The Ministry has just published a policy on student placements, and asked for it to be circulated to relevant stakeholders, including training institutions, and placement providers. The Ministry consulted regulatory authorities on the policy statement last week, and had input from DHBs and the Ministry's Clinical cluster. In its email communication the Ministry emphasises that the policy supports the authority of the regulatory authorities (including the Board), placement providers, and training institutions. There will inevitably be differences in how each profession ultimately manages their student placements. The policy simply provides a common starting point in regard to determining if students can be seen as essential workers.  The policy can and will be reviewed as necessary.

Client confidentiality, privacy and contact tracing

Several psychologists have asked about how to manage client confidentiality and  privacy in the event that the psychologist is diagnosed with COVID-19 and contact tracing needs to be undertaken by Public Health officials, and what their responsibilities are to their clients. The Board has obtained legal advice on this question.  That advice is that a psychologist who has tested positive for Covid19 can disclose client or patient information to the appropriate public health body for the purpose of contact tracing or other public health measures:

If you are affected, in the first instance, the appropriate public health authority that you should contact will be Healthline (Ministry of Health) or your local DHB’s public health unit.  The health authority will tell you what patient information you will need to disclose, but you must not disclose any information beyond what is requested. This information is likely to be limited to the patient’s name and contact details, and when (e.g. date/time) and for how long you were in contact with the patient. It is important that you:

(1) do not disclose patient information to any person or body other than the appropriate public health body; and

(2) do not disclose more information than is necessary to enable the health authority to take appropriate steps.

After you have contacted the public health authority, you also have an obligation, where possible, to contact the patients that you have provided information about to the authority. The potential exposure to Covid19 is something that is relevant to your obligations of open disclosure and the therapeutic relationship with the patient.  By contacting the patient you will help to reduce any alarm or distress that the patient may feel if that are ‘cold-called’ by the public health authorities without any forewarning. 

If the public health authority requests you to provide information about the patients that you have recently had contact with, you must comply with that request and disclose the patient information.

The Ministry of Health and Office of the Privacy Commissioner also provide information and resources on contact tracing.

    We welcome your comments on this website, on your interaction with the Board, or on any other aspect of the work we do.