The annual APAC workshop began in 2008, as one step towards filling a large hole in postgraduate clinical training. Many paediatricians, emergency department physicians and surgeons lack confidence and experience in child protection. Many trainees embark on a consultant career with little hands-on experience in the management of suspected physical abuse. Most have received no specific training around the court experience, have never appeared as an expert witness and feel extremely nervous about doing so.

Dr Patrick Kelly

Those who diagnose child abuse should be well-trained, careful, objective and embedded in a multi-disciplinary process. Solo or idiosyncratic practice easily becomes unsafe. Although the workshop is based on practice at Starship Children’s Hospital (New Zealand’s tertiary children’s hospital) and explicitly draws on the expertise of a wide range of professional disciplines, we aim to model an approach which can be adapted to every clinical context.

Contributors come from the fields of child protection paediatrics, forensic pathology, paediatric neuroradiology, paediatric ophthalmology, paediatric orthopaedics, paediatric radiology and plastic surgery. In addition, we use an international expert in child protection paediatrics as an external auditor and contributor. 

From 2008 to 2019, the annual workshop expanded from two to five days, in response to highly positive evaluations and requests to cover more topics. Subjects include talking to families (using actors), documentation, working with statutory authorities, abdominal injuries, bruises, burns, fractures, head injuries, medical child abuse, neglect (including neglect of medical care) and writing reports and formal statements. For a decade, there has been a whole day on giving evidence in court, led by experienced criminal barristers.

The pandemic brought a whole new raft of challenges, such that we had to cancel in 2020. We do not wish to do that again, so in 2021 we have made the bold decision to go online. We are encouraged in this decision by our experience with our sexual abuse course, which we ran very successfully online in conjunction with MEDSAC in March 2021.

We are committed to a two-day virtual online live course on Monday 23 and Tuesday 24 August 2021. The other three days of face-to-face content are now being transformed into eLearning modules and webinars, which we plan to make available to registrants from mid-July. They will also be made available online to registrants for 3 months after the course, and will then be provided to registrants as high-quality pdf files.

We believe that the transition of a lot of our didactic content into online preLearning will enable us to focus our virtual course even more than before on interactive and case-based learning. The schedule for those two days is still being planned to make it as useful as possible, and will continue to evolve over the next couple of months. In particular, we propose to make much of the material concerning giving evidence in court available online as preLearning (including recorded examples of giving evidence in particular situations), so that the live session can focus on interactive questions and answers important to attendees.

The target audience is Consultants and Advanced Trainees in Paediatrics or related specialties (including Emergency Medicine and Surgical Specialties) where these cases form a part of clinical responsibilities. Our experience with the MEDSAC course is that the shorter length and flexibility of the virtual course will increase our ability to accept registrants who may otherwise have struggled to attend a five day face-to-face course. 

We are committed to maintaining the ethos, integrity and quality of this course in a new format and a new post-COVID world, and we look forward to your participation.

The workshop is recognised by the Specialist Advisory Committee in General Paediatrics of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians as a child protection course suitable for advanced trainees in general paediatrics. Trainees from other professional disciplines have also attended the course and found it very helpful. 

Dr Patrick Kelly
Paediatrician | Service Clinical Director, Te Puaruruhau | Starship Children's Hospital